From the Bradenton Herald this week came the headline, “Nine busted for poaching alligators and taking more than 10,000 eggs” on a news story by Mark Young. The article indicated that the “Florida Attorney General’s Office announced nine individuals ranging in age from 22 to 73 were busted Wednesday on a variety of charges related to poaching alligators and illegally harvesting more than 10,000 alligator eggs.”
Recently, a fairly large alligator was photographed crossing a green on one of the golf courses I have played.
(An American alligator walks onto the edge of the putting green on the seventh hole of Myakka Pines Golf Club in Englewood, Florida in a photo by Bill Susie.)
These alligator moments brought to mind my childhood encounters with alligators and, unfortunately, memories of my father’s contributions to the decline of the alligator population in the 1950’s through his poaching practices. At the time, he could get $4 or $5 a foot for hides, so on a successful night he could make $80 to $100 because he never took more than two gators on any given night. Since he only made about $3000 a year as a ranch hand, that extra cash helped pay for automobile and rodeo expenses.
From the 16th chapter of Growing Up Floridian:
Tanned gator hides tacked along back-porch walls, which bore witness to our father’s midnight flashlight-directed hunting prowess, dismayed us. In the outside closet off the carport where our father parked his 1958 Ford Ranchero, rolled bundles of salted gator hides waited for a visit from the quiet Cuban who showed up in the middle of the night every three or four months. Hides came off the walls and bundles disappeared from the closet suddenly every once in a while. Invariably, the next day an officer from the Florida Fish and Game Commission would drive on to the ranch and have a terse conversation with our father. We were never privy to those conversations, but we knew some cleverness had taken place when our father began grinning as the FFGC truck would disappear into the tree line. How he knew about the visit ahead of time we never found out, but he never got arrested for poaching.