A photo of the gator courtesy of a resident who wished to remain anonymous.

BIG KID NOW: Drawing the line between news story and just another gator

What does an alligator have to do to get on the front page?
By: 
Apr. 3, 2017

It all started with a call from a man who had a killer Southern accent.

“You know there’s a gator down Wilmette right now,” said Doug Pierce. “He’s a good ol’ boy, and I don’t want to get him in trouble. He’s very photogenic.”

So photogenic in fact, that dozens of people had been stopping by the pond at Willow Pond Apartments, 875 Wilmette Ave., all day to take photos of him. Passersby, apartment residents and Pierce all estimated the gator to be 8-10 feet long. My best guess was “big.”

The gator, who is described as “friendly,” was on the edge of the pond that sits in the center of several of the complex’s buildings. After seeing me nervously snap a few photos, a couple people who lived nearby decided to fill me in on some details.

Most people believed him — and the other gators living in the community’s ponds — to be harmless. A few were concerned that the gators felt comfortable enough to sunbathe on the bank of grass, close to their front doors. A couple swore they saw him walking on the sidewalk once or twice.

All wanted to remain anonymous, probably because they didn’t want to gossip about the nice gator.

Confused, as most people are when I tell them I’m with the newspaper, Jerry the property manager told me that there was “no story here.” I mean, he was right for the most part. Big gators aren’t anything new, and all this one is being accused of is inconveniently sunbathing.

“It’s Florida,” he said. “There are gators.”

But Jerry did acknowledge all the attention the alligator was getting that day. Apparently, someone made a call, and the gator was supposed to be trapped, but no one from the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission had come.

FWC Public Information Officer Greg Workman said the FWC didn’t have any active permits for Willow Pond, but it did receive a call from the Volusia County Sheriff’s Office regarding calls about the area. 

Does the gator need to be removed? None of the residents I talked to said they wanted the gators to be removed, although one person did tell me a story about a man who used to feed raw meat to one of the gators — until it climbed onto the sidewalk and chased an old woman. But according to Jerry and FWC, that was probably just another weird Ormond rumor.

“I don’t have that information, but if that was true,” said Workman, “the alligator would be habituated to humans and therefore be deemed dangerous and a nuisance, then removed.”

Moral of the story? Gators live here, so do we, deal with it. Also, don’t feed the gators. A gator is not news, and we want to keep it that way.

Email Emily Blackwood at emily@ormondbeachobserver.com.