Friday, January 20, 2012

How to free a sewer gator

As I mentioned previously, there was a gator in our storm sewer at the office. Yes, seriously. Sewer gators may be urban legend elsewhere, but as you can see, in SoFla they're legit. (Though his Wednesday afternoon rescue was big enough news make yesterday's paper - I'm not claiming it's common!)

He'd been in there at least since Friday of the previous week, though some reports had him in there from last Wednesday. When I found out, I knew I needed to call someone, but honestly, I had no idea who. Cue the wonderful folks at the Humane Society's South Florida Wildlife Center.

They advised me to call the Florida Fish & Wildlife Commission, who advised me to call the Statewide Nuisance Alligator Program (SNAP), who told me to call the department of public works, who told me to call SNAP, who then blew me off. Lather, rinse, repeat - I found myself on the phone with the Wildlife Center again.

Thankfully, they know how to navigate the run-around. They gave me some very specific advice: ask for a supervisor, throw my weight around by giving them my full-and-impressive-sounding job title, and demand action. In retrospect, it's funny how such small changes in my approach made all the difference. I never even actually spoke to a supervisor, but just asking to speak to one and sounding intimidating made all the difference.

Within two hours, the department of public works (who had rebuffed me) was out here opening the grate for the trapper, who soon followed. Unfortunately, but that time the alligator had become such a spectacle to the neighbors that he'd spooked and backed up into the pipe. Note to South Floridians: if you see trapped, cornered, or injured wildlife, please stay the heck away! Gawking only stresses the animal.

Over the long weekend, the trapper kept returning to see if the gator was once again within reach. He wasn't. Finally, on Wednesday morning, the gator was again fully under the grate. But now the trapper needed me to get facilities management back out here to open the grate!

No one had told me to get the number from the facilities management guy. So? More phone tag. I called SNAP. They searched their trapping permits and found the contact for Public Works emergency dispatch. Emergency dispatch said all their staff were in the field and told me to call Streets & Highways. The number for S&H was disconnected. Public Works connected me with the county's informational hotline, and they (finally) connected me with the right folks.

The S&H guys thought the whole thing was a hoot. But thankfully, unlike the people in our office park, they listened to me when I asked them to stay back out of the gator's line of sight until the trapper could get here. He arrived and the whole process began.

In the photos, you can see the giant pump truck from the county that fed one end of the pipe, pushing the gator toward the other end where the trapper waited with a rope. He got the rope around the gator, handed it off to the S&H guys to anchor, then reached in and dragged that 7.5 ft gator out by the tail with his bare hands.

I'm sure you're all wondering what happens to the gator now. Well, because the gator exceeded 5 ft. long and residing in a populous area, he was supposed to be "harvested" - government-speak for killed. But this particular trapper (who came recommended by our humane friends as SFWC) instead took him to a preserve in the Everglades where he was released into the wild.

For my fellow Floridians, here are some useful numbers if you're ever in a similar situation:

SNAP: 866-392-4286
Broward County Info Hotline: 954-831-4000

And perhaps the most important number to know for wildlife:

South Florida Wildlife Center: 866-SOS-WILD

1 comment:

  1. This was a terrible event, both for the alligator and people that are affected by the situation. Calling the animal welfare immediately was really a smart move on your part. At least they were aware of the situation and can do the necessary actions for it. And after few hours, the gator has been caught with the help of street and highways guys and their huge pump trucks. Hopefully that would be the last of that.

    Rudy Swanson @ Haaker