Anglers barred from popular fishing spot after gators get aggressive

Alligators, like this one spotted in The Acreage in 2011, tend to hunt opportunistically, not aggressively, said David Hitzig of the Busch Wildlife Sanctuary in Jupiter. (Allen Eyestone/The Palm Beach Post)

A popular fishing spot in the Loxahatchee National Wildlife Refuge will be temporarily off limits to anglers after alligators accustomed to getting free meals from humans have become increasingly aggressive.

Veronica Kelly, a spokeswoman for the refuge, said several alligators have been removed and euthanized after approaching people in an area where fisherman have been seen feeding them.

One of the gators was more than 12-feet long.

“We’ve had 11 violation notices for feeding and enticing alligators since March,” Kelly said. “We regularly get calls about people feeding them, but usually by the time the officer arrives the people are gone.”

The area, which will be off limits to bank fishing through Nov. 2, stretches about 100 yards north and south of the Lee Road Boat Ramp. The ban includes fishing from the fishing platform, boat dock, and boat ramp areas.

RELATED: Gator victim came from Japan but loved Florida 

This alligator was removed from the Loxahatchee National Wildlife Refuge after it became aggressive. Refuge managers believe people were illegally feeding it. Photo courtesy of Barry Willette/USFWS Volunteer

“When gators get  used to being around humans, it totally changes their behavior and they start coming to people for food,” Kelly said.

In one incident, a fisherman reported an alligator tried to jump in his boat. Another person reported being chased by a gator.

The maximum penalty for feeding alligators could be up to one year in jail and a $100,000 fine.

Kelly said the refuge hopes the gators that frequent the area will get hungry and leave by Nov. 2. The refuge includes 141,000 acres west of Boynton Beach.

RELATED: Hundreds of gators caught in Palm Beach County, this map shows where 

“On national wildlife refuges, wildlife comes first,” a refuge press release says. “Refuges are set aside for the protection of wildlife and their habitat first and foremost.”

According to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, there are an estimated 1.3 million alligators in the state.

A fisherman at the Loxahatchee National Wildlife Refuge’s southern corner, far west of Boca Raton in 2017. (The Palm Beach Post/Eliot Kleinberg)

Alligators are under federal protection as a species. It’s a designation that recognizes a need to keep alligators from being excessively hunted, but also makes allowances to kill a gator considered a nuisance or dangerous.

Related: 7-foot gator wanders outside Florida elementary school

Between 1948 and through 2017, there have been 401 alligator attacks in Florida with 24 fatalities. In June, an alligator killed 47-year-old Plantation resident Shizuka Matsuki while she walked her dogs in Davie’s Silver Lakes Rotary Nature Park, according to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission.

To report instances of people feeding alligators or other wildlife violations while at the refuge, call 800-307-5789.

 

Pythons are coming! Palm Beach County refuge mounts a defense

There’s no question they are coming with ill intent, southern assailants slithering toward the last remnant of the northern Everglades where freshwater veins lead to an unspoiled buffet.

The invasive Burmese python, which infests Everglades National Park, has yet to be seen inside the Arthur R. Marshall Loxahatchee National Wildlife Refuge west of Boynton Beach.

RELATED: The Prince of Darkness goes on a python hunt. 

 

Duane “Caveman” Clark catches a ten-foot python during the Python Challenge in the Everglades Wildlife Management Area, on February 9, 2016. (Daniel Owen / The Palm Beach Post)

Without fortification, it’s just a matter of time before the voracious eaters enter the 141,000-acre refuge as conquering parasites, but defenses are being mounted, including a unique python trap that refuge caretakers hope will help with early detection and mitigation.

WEATHER INSIDER: Like this story? Want more? Sign up for our newsletter

“Unfortunately, at this moment there are not a lot of control methods — or any effective control methods — for the python,” said Rebekah Gibble, a U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service senior wildlife biologist at the refuge. “We have people working feverishly to develop other methods of control so we don’t get as bad as Everglades National Park.”

Related: Pythons ran amok in the Everglades until these guys showed up

USDA is testing a live snake trap at the Loxahatchee Wildlife Refuge that utilizes two trip pans for the humane capture of larger, heavier snakes, such as the invasive Burmese python. (Allen Eyestone / The Palm Beach Post) 

In 2016, a 10-foot-long python was found on a levee near the southeast side of the refuge, and there have been sightings in parking lots adjacent to the refuge, Gibble said. 

The USDA is testing a live snake trap at the Loxahatchee Wildlife Refuge that utilizes two trip pans for the humane capture of larger, heavier snakes, such as the invasive Burmese python. (Allen Eyestone / The Palm Beach Post)

Water samples taken from the refuge have also tested positive for python DNA, but the water may have flowed into the refuge from other areas.

WATCH: Epic battle between python and alligator caught on video.

“I think it’s inevitable that this area will get inundated with pythons so we want to do anything we can to control the invasion,” said Andrew Eastwick, a wildlife biologist at the refuge. “But we want to make sure that what we do doesn’t do more harm than good.”

They are hoping this 5-foot-long trap…Read more about how the innovative trap works in the full story on MyPalmBeachPost.com. 

If you haven’t yet, join Kim on Facebook , Instagram and Twitter.