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Hungry alligator gets a reprieve

An anonymous donor has stepped up to catch an alligator that had become so accustomed to people feeding him that wildlife managers believed he was potentially dangerous and were considering killing the animal.
/ Source: The Associated Press

Crusty the alligator is getting a second chance.

An anonymous donor has put up $1,150 to catch the elusive reptile, which had become so accustomed to people feeding him that wildlife managers believed he was potentially dangerous, said Todd Hardwick, a Miami-Dade County alligator trapper who helped arrange for Crusty’s new home.

Officials thought they would have to take him from a canal along Florida’s Alligator Alley in the Everglades and euthanize him.

Instead, Crusty will be sent to an animal exhibit in the Seminole Reservation in Hollywood, along with three other alligators officials have named Speedy, Boomer and Freddy, Hardwick said. Crusty is the only one of the four that remains on the lam.

Officers with the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission launched a three-day undercover sting operation earlier this month aimed at catching alligator feeders, which drew attention to Crusty. The publicity brought phone calls to wildlife officials and ultimately the pledge of funds to spare the animal.

In 2004, more than 7,000 alligators had to be killed after becoming too accustomed to people and too dangerous to leave in the wild, according to the commission. Authorities issued more than half a dozen citations on the operation’s first day.

Feeding an alligator is a second-degree misdemeanor punishable by a fine and up to 60 days in jail.

Three women were killed by alligators in a single week in May, an unprecedented string of attacks. Florida has recorded only 17 other fatal alligator attacks since 1948.