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Last week, Florida Today published a rather extraordinary article about Bill Robb, a.k.a. “Gator Bill.” For many years, Robb worked as a nuisance alligator trapper in Brevard County, one of about 50 people statewide that the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) calls to respond to complaints about alligators in swimming pools, neighborhood ponds, etc.

Robb has ended his association with the FWC. He explained that a major reason for the decision was that the FWC was encouraging him to kill alligators instead of relocating them. For a man who, by his own estimate, has captured more than 5,000 alligators, this is a big deal.

Robb told the paper, “Most people think that because it is an alligator, it is a nuisance.” He continued, “The alligator has gone from being a protected species to one that some people think should be exterminated like a rat or a roach.” In 2010, almost 6,000 “nuisance” alligators were killed in Florida. Robb added, “We share this state with a solid 1 million alligators and they want to do the same thing we do: They want to live here in peace.”

Bill Robb will continue to use his knowledge of–and respect for–alligators to educate Floridians how to maintain a healthy relationship with our wild neighbors. ARFF applauds his decision.

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Recent commentaries in the Sanibel-Captiva Islander (here and here) by representatives from two local conservation groups described the creation of a positive program for alligators on Sanibel Island.

In 2010, responding to complaints by club members, The Dunes Golf & Tennis Club called trappers several times to remove alligators from the course. The killing of alligators who were not aggressive disturbed local residents who collected over 200 signatures on a petition that was presented to the Sanibel City Council.

In response to the criticism, and in an attempt to reduce complaints, the golf course has collaborated with the Sanibel-Captiva Conservation Foundation (SCCF) to present guided wildlife tours and “Alligator Awareness” classes for the golf club membership and for residents to teach how to live safely and peacefully with nature. Dee Serage-Century, SCCF’s Living With Wildlife Educator, described the potential impact of the education programs: “There would be no alligators trapped and killed on Sanibel if individuals stopped asking to have them killed.”

This is a great example of people working together to find humane methods of resolving conflicts between humans and wildlife. The Sanibel residents who spoke up in defense of alligators deserve a lot of credit.

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