Florida's Gator Frenzy; on Patrol with a Leading Trapper at Crunch Time

By Skipp, Catharine; Campo-Flores, Arian | Newsweek, May 29, 2006 | Go to article overview

Florida's Gator Frenzy; on Patrol with a Leading Trapper at Crunch Time


Skipp, Catharine, Campo-Flores, Arian, Newsweek


Byline: Catharine Skipp and Arian Campo-Flores

The 10-foot alligator poised on the banks of a canal near Miami last Thursday had set off a frenzy. Traffic on the nearby freeway was shut down, nearly 100 onlookers snapped photos and a news helicopter circled overhead. When Todd Hardwick--alligator trapper extraordinaire--arrived at the scene with a police escort, he leapt out of his truck and raced toward the beast. Wielding a heavy-duty fishing rod, he cast a line bearing a three-pronged hook that caught on the gator's hide. The animal quickly ensnared itself. As it thrashed about, Hardwick nabbed it with another line, then stuck it with a harpoon and lassoed it with a lariat. With the help of a half-dozen cops, he hauled the 400-pound bull up the hill, jumped on top of it and cinched its jaws shut with electrical tape.

Hardwick and the 37 other licensed trappers in Florida are in high demand. In one especially bloody week this month, three women died of alligator attacks in the state. One was apparently slain while jogging along a canal, another was found dead in a waterway with her right arm ripped off and the third was struck while snorkeling with friends. With only 17 other fatal gator attacks on record since 1948 in Florida, wildlife officials stress that the recent carnage is an aberration. Nevertheless, gator mania has seized the state. While Hardwick typically averages 15 requests for alligator captures per week in peak season--May and June--he has averaged 17 per day since the recent killings. The result: he's fielding an incessant stream of calls from rattled residents, overwhelmed wildlife officials and frothing news outlets.

Short, lean and sinewy, Hardwick would seem no match for a gator. …

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