The Walton County Sheriff’s Office (WCSO) received a call around 9:15 p.m. on June 6 from a Paxton resident that a 15-foot alligator was sitting in the middle of the road in a residential neighborhood. When deputies arrived they discovered that indeed an alligator had made its way down Adams Street and was lying in the grass on the side of the road. The alligator turned out to be 10 feet 10 inches long and weighed over 350 pounds.
Deputy Sheriffs Richard Huxhold and Jason Leddon contained the alligator with their vehicles until Florida Fish and Wildlife could arrive. The deputies also kept spectators who were arriving at a safe distance from the gator.
In Florida, Alligators over eight feet long are not eligible for relocation and so a private trapper was needed to take custody of the alligator. However, due to the size of the alligator it needed to be restrained for public safety until the trapper arrived. Officer Randall Brooks with Florida Fish and Wildlife explained what needed to be done to restrain the animal. Alligators are generally slow on land, but can lunge short distance very quickly. The entire situation had to be approached with extreme caution. Along with the help of the two deputies Brooks was able to slip a rope around the head of the ‘gator and pull the ‘gator into the roadway where the officer and deputies could restrain the animal properly. The officer and deputies had to jump on the back of the 10-foot alligator to get the tape around the mouth and legs. Once the mouth was taped shut the feet were then taped so the alligator could not move or bite. Alligators have the strongest bite of any living animal, so for public safety it was imperative that the animal’s mouth be secured.
The deputies remained with the animal until the trapper could arrive and take control of it. In 2008, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission received more than 14,000 nuisance alligator complaints. Trappers are contracted to remove specific nuisance alligators. It is illegal for the general public to kill, capture, or relocate nuisance alligators.