updated 4/24/2007 2:37:21 PM ET 2007-04-24T18:37:21

Police arrested a man who picked up a dead alligator and tried to butcher it on his front lawn, saying he only wanted a new belt.

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Benjamin Hodges, 35, said he found the dead gator floating in the Hillsborough River on Sunday and took it home in a shopping cart. He figures it was 4 feet or 5 feet long.

Just as Hodges flopped the carcass on the ground and started to cut it open, officers showed up and arrested him. An anonymous caller had reported him to the state wildlife agency.

He is charged with killing or possessing an alligator, a felony punishable by up to 60 days in jail and a $500 fine. Although their numbers are growing, American alligators are still protected in Florida as a species of special concern.

Hodges said he knew of a man at a flea market who might be able to craft a belt for him.

“I didn’t think there was anything illegal about skinning a dead gator,” he told The Tampa Tribune.

He was freed on $2,000 bail.

Copyright 2007 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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