By Alex Butler
On Friday, Oct. 22, a Campus Safety officer was seen carrying an alligator away in a golf cart.
“I’ve seen the alligator at least once before and it was just minding its own business… I saw two Campus Safety officers taking it away and one was holding the alligator by the neck with one hand and its mouth was all wrapped up,” said Sam Johnson, junior marine biology major.
The alligator, known as “Stumpy” on The University of Tampa’s campus, is an American alligator missing one foot. It has been seen near the creek in Plant Park by several students.
“I did see Stumpy and he was in Plant Park by the creek,” said James Heiser, junior marine biology major. “I know of two other people that saw it and three Campus Safety officers.”
According to Richard Griner, assistant director of Campus Safety, the alligator was removed for its own safety and the safety of others, as it had left Plant Park and was heading towards Plant Hall.
American alligators are federally protected by the Endangered Species Act and are classified as a federally designated threatened species, according to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC).
“There are certain permits you have to have to handle them [American alligators],” said Ron Rozar, assistant professor of biology. “If you don’t have those permits you shouldn’t pick them up or harass them or handle them in any way.”
Without specific permits or licenses, Florida statutes make it illegal to intentionally kill, injure, possess, or capture an alligator or to attempt to do any of those things.
According to Florida statutes, these actions are punishable as a third-degree felony, which can result in five years of prison, a $5,000 fine, and five years of probation.
“Campus Safety doesn’t have any licenses or permits to handle wild alligators,” said Griner. “Campus Safety was working in coordination with and under the guidance of FWC.”
Other types of harassment such as feeding alligators are illegal in Florida. According to Griner, students were attempting to both feed and pet the alligator in Plant Park. In the state of Florida, this can be punished by a $500 fine or 60 days in jail.
After it was captured, the alligator was given to the FWC representative that was working with Campus Safety. The location it was taken to currently remains unknown.
According to Griner, Campus Safety has not had to previously remove alligators from campus.
“It’s [Plant Park] not realistic as a food source to sustain it [an alligator],” said Rozar. “It’s not going to remain in that habitat.”
If other alligators are seen outside of a natural habitat, FWC has a nuisance alligator hotline that can be reached at 866-392-4286. However, a nuisance alligator is typically classified as four feet or more in length.
“[Students] should not attempt to approach, touch, or feed the alligator [if there is another one on campus],” said Griner. “Call Campus Safety, Tampa Police Department, and/or FWC.”
Photo Courtesy of Emily Keen Photography.