FWC Hopes To Help Alligator Trappers

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The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) agreed Wednesday to try to find a way to help the state's financially strapped nuisance alligator trappers. Commissioners heard from trappers during the first day of their Nov. 20-22 meeting at Hawk's Cay Resort on Duck Key.

Despite removing more than 7,000 gators and harvesting their hides and meat, trappers said they are unable to make a living performing the service. They said the current $23.33 per foot price for hides and the $4 per pound price for meat do not yield a living wage. Trappers are under contract with the FWC to remove gators that pose a threat to people or property.

Col. Julie Jones, the FWC's director of law enforcement, said the FWC established the nuisance gator removal program, intending it to be a part-time job for trappers. However, trappers must respond promptly to nuisance gator reports and sometimes must make multiple trips to remove animals. Some remove 500 gators per year; others remove as few as 30.

"They travel an average of 164 miles to harvest one gator," she said.

Jones said the FWC's Division of Law Enforcement plans to meet with trappers in early December to brainstorm ideas about ways to help trappers.

Commissioners said the Florida legislature is unlikely to fund any kind of subsidy for trappers this year, but they would be glad to explore other options.

Bill Rob, who removes nuisance gators in the Titusville area, said he is grateful the FWC is working with trappers to find a solution. He said he removed 300 gators last year, in response to 900 nuisance gator complaints.

"We'll appreciate anything you can do," he said.

Another trapper, John Wollard, who works in Martin and Palm Beach counties, said he believes the FWC is "headed in the right direction" by meeting with trappers, and he is hopeful the meeting will be productive.

Jones said she will make recommendations to Commissioners at a later meeting.