It’s alligator season in Florida — a time when it’s not really that unusual to see one strolling down crowded streets, busy intersections, even stopping traffic. You are sure to see them at golf courses and, this time of year, there are always reports of people finding alligators in their personal swimming pools.
That’s why, for most Floridians, the sight of an alligator is no big deal. But Rodney Withers, with Rose Pool and Spa, got more than he bargained for when he set off to work this March.
Just south of Fort Meyers, Withers was punching in for work when he found out that his day was going to involve wrestling a 6-foot alligator.
The dramatic gator capture was caught on camera.
Withers was building a fountain at the Club at Via Rapallo. He went to his car to get a quick drink when he said something told him to “look in the opposite direction.”
He spun around and saw his coworker — along with an enormous alligator.
“I see on the floor this black shadow from the shoulders up of an alligator,” Withers said. “I’m ‘Hey! Hey! Hey! Hey!’ and when he looked, I told him ‘Be careful, there’s a gator on the other side of your truck.’ When he came around the truck, the gator opened his mouth and you could see all his teeth.”
The gator scurried over to the fountain, where it got stuck.
Deputies and a state alligator trapper arrived on the scene, but it was all hands on deck as the entire group attempted to wrangle the animal.
“I was pretty much standing here right above the gator,” Withers said. “I pulled him up, he went to turning and twirling. The only thing I could think about is what my daddy always told me: ‘Hold on like hell’.”
After a brutal 10-minute battle, the group finally managed to subdue the creature, and they were able to haul it away to a nearby farm.
Back to work, Withers said it was an experience he’ll never forget.
“To feel that power of him … it was cool,” he said. “I enjoyed it. I might have to change jobs and go be a gator hunter.”
Meanwhile, 160 miles up the road in Orlando, some people were a little put off when a small alligator attempted to join a school’s swim practice.
It happened on March 11 at Montverde Academy, just as the swim team was about to begin practice.
Police were called to the school and arrived to find a small gator holding its breath at the bottom of the pool.
“A 3-foot alligator … had decided to try out for the swim team, preventing the actual swim team from practicing,” the Lake County Sheriff’s Office wrote on Facebook. “Deputy Brownsberger was able to use a safety hook to bring him to the edge, where Deputy Faust reached down and grabbed the gator. His mouth was then secured with electric tape and temporarily detained.”
The alligator was taken to Lake Apopka, “where the gator was released on its own recognizance,” the Sheriff’s office stated.
“No deputies or gators were hurt during the encounter.”
Officers did not say who found the alligator.
The Facebook post garnered hundreds of reactions and inspired a lot of jokes including comments about how a gator in the pool might be a good excuse to skip swim practice.
“’Mom, practice got canceled today because a gator was in the pool…. I’M NOT LYING MOM!!!” Ashley Langley wrote on Facebook.
“I bet those kids would swim faster with him in the pool! I know I would!” Sarah Balderson said.
According to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, Florida is home to 1.3 million alligators, but due to their similarity of appearance to the American crocodile, they are Federally protected by the Endangered Species Act. Adults average 10 to 15 feet in length, can weigh 1,000 pounds, and can live up to 50 years. So at just 3 feet long, this alligator was probably a little more than 8 years old – just a baby.
Rodney Withers, Rose Pool & Spa, NBC News