Monday, November 27, 2017

Florida Opened Fake Alligator Farm to Catch Poachers

Just after dawn on May 24, 2017, government agents arrested [Wayne] Nichols and eight other men, ages 22 to 74, in the biggest sting operation in Florida history to net alleged alligator poachers. ... Two agents using the fake names Curtis Blackledge and Justin Rooks posed as owners of the Sunshine Alligator Farm, off Highway 72 in DeSoto County cowboy country. It was stocked with all the trimmings of a legitimate business raising and growing giant reptiles worth up to hundreds of dollars for their leather hides destined to be fashioned into boots, belts, and purses by luxury clothing brands.


With an alligator population that's both healthy and growing, the state has developed a booming "marsh to market" gator economy. More than 90 licensed alligator farms generate $7.6 million for the state annually. In addition, about 7,200 alligators are killed during the public hunt, providing roughly two million dollars in state revenue. The public hunt allows permit holders to kill two alligators within designated areas and typically runs from August 15 to November 1.

A portion of the profits from hunting and farming provides support for research by state biologists, wildlife management, and law enforcement activities such as Operation Alligator Thief. The system is touted as a model for conservation and regulated, sustainable use of wildlife.

Alligator farms offering on-site hunting are particularly lucrative, charging customers anywhere from $1,500 to $12,000 per kill, depending on the alligator's size. But big money is a magnet for crime. When the news broke in May about the nine indicted men, Florida statewide prosecutor Nick Cox told reporters that the state wants to send a message to would-be crooks: "We're done with it."


Nice. In Missouri they use animatronic bait deer placed in fields next to highways to catch poachers.

#1 | Posted by sitzkrieg at 2017-11-27 07:33 AM

"Florida statewide prosecutor Nick Cox told reporters that the state wants to send a message to would-be crooks: "We're done with it."

I just wonder if he said that with a straight face?

#2 | Posted by danni at 2017-11-27 09:41 AM

In Florida?
Doubtful, Danni, doubtful

#3 | Posted by Doc_Sarvis at 2017-11-27 10:08 AM

An interesting but not generally known fact is that Prosecutor Nick "Bowl-of" Cox was also a former Royal Canadian Mounted Policeman who was the basis for the children's cartoon character Dudley Do-Right.

#4 | Posted by madscientist at 2017-11-27 10:42 AM

#1 | Posted by sitzkrieg

They do it here in Michigan too. They also do Turkeys. They have caught more than one person...

#5 | Posted by GalaxiePete at 2017-11-27 02:12 PM

This sounds similar in some ways to what was going on with Glass Eels on the upper east coast.

#6 | Posted by GalaxiePete at 2017-11-27 04:09 PM

Considering how overrun the state is with gators I'm surprised hunting them is so restricted in the first place. A cheaper way of reducing poaching might be to let people legitimately take more than two per year. Although people who make big money farming them probably have something to say about that..

#7 | Posted by Sully at 2017-11-28 09:39 AM

The wild population is stable with 2 tags per hunter. Farms get management tags, it's a different but similar regulatory structure.

#8 | Posted by sitzkrieg at 2017-11-28 09:51 AM

They also go through 4 phases to make sure all the tags go out, so you're not specifically limited to 2 per person it seems. You can get more in phase 2 - 4 if there are leftovers.

#9 | Posted by sitzkrieg at 2017-11-28 09:53 AM

You obviously know more about it than I do but my thinking is the wild population doesn't need to be as big as it is. Floridians will always have to assume that anything bigger than a puddle may be hiding a gator. But it would be nice if it were true less often in residential areas.

#10 | Posted by Sully at 2017-11-28 10:12 AM

It's basic conservation science. State wildlife biologists survey the populations and establish the number of tags accordingly. If demand exceeds the tags available, they're distributed by lottery. There are only 0.3 fatal alligator attacks on humans per year on average, out of a 1.3 million gator population.

#11 | Posted by sitzkrieg at 2017-11-28 10:21 AM

side note: gator tastes really good if you clean the fat off properly.

#12 | Posted by sitzkrieg at 2017-11-28 10:22 AM

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