Alligator Tales : The Latest Chapter By Barbara Joy Cooley , president , Committee of the Islands “ Sanibel is and shall remain a barrier island sanctuary , one in which a diverse population lives in harmony with the island''s wildlife and natural habitats . The Sanibel community must be vigilant in the protection and enhancement of its sanctuary characteristics . ” – from the Sanibel Vision Statement , Sanibel City Charter , Section 3.18 Those words from the Sanibel Vision Statement , which cite not only living in harmony with our wildlife , but also being vigilant in protecting the sanctuary characteristics of the island , are ones we should bear in mind regarding the island''s alligators . And for several years now , we have been monitoring and reporting on the worrisome aspects of official " harvesting " of these animals . When mid ? April arrived , I noted that it was time to check up on Sanibel''s alligators again . On April 18 , I requested email copies of all the alligator police reports from March 15 , 2012 , through mid ? April , 2013 . Police Chief Bill Tomlinson readily asked his staff to email them to me . I made a similar request of the state’s Alligator Management Program at the Fish and Wildlife Commission : would they please email me information about alligators harvested from Sanibel during the past year ? Lindsey Hord , the state biologist who directs that program , also readily asked his staff to email the information to me . The bottom line is that of 113 alligator ? related incidents / police reports , only 4 alligators were removed from Sanibel and destroyed . That represents much less alligator death than in other recent years ; it is basically a return to the old days , when few gators on this sanctuary island were destroyed . After I read all 411 pages of reports , I made a 7 ? page table / summary , which I analyzed . During this analysis , I was struck by the fact that many small alligators get into swimming pools . That happens more frequently than I imagined . Some people call the police to report the presence of an alligator for no apparent reason , other than that perhaps they think the police need to know . When asked , these callers said no , they didn’t feel threatened by the animal , and no , they were not asking for it to be removed . Sadly , a couple of alligators were struck by vehicles . About those small alligators in swimming pools : what typically happened was that the responding police officer would remove the gator from the pool , then transport it and release it on conservation land off of Island Inn Road . One hungry baby gator found in front of the Sanibel Café was also taken to that spot . A few small alligators were simply relocated to a pond near the place where they were found . The harrowing experience of being relocated by a police officer probably reinforced a healthy fear of humans in these young gators .Many , many times , there would be a call to the police about an alligator , but the subject alligator was gone by the time police officers arrived on the scene . Sometimes the alligator was still on site , but when what good alligators do ! They avoid the police arrived , it fled into a nearby pond or bayou . That’s people . There were a few serious cases in which the alligator seemed to behave as if it had been fed by humans . Everyone on Sanibel should know that it is a violation of the law to feed an alligator , because feeding alligators can cause them to associate humans with food – a very dangerous situation . ( Below , alligator eating a bowfin fish that he scooped out of the muck – a good situation . ) The collection of reports contained evidence that the Sanibel Police coordinated with the J.N . “ Ding ” Darling National Wildlife Refuge management about alligators who’d been seen crossing the road or shared use path and entering refuge property .In one interesting case about a year ago , a crew working on a weir near Tarpon Bay Road was approached by a 10 ? foot alligator who watched them . Refuge officers arrived and stated that the gator did not appear to be a threat and would not be moved . They said that they’d monitor the gator for 30 days ; if it was still in the area then , they’d help remove it . Sometimes people call the police to report alligators doing exactly what alligators are supposed to do . For example , last August , someone reported that a six ? foot alligator was swimming nonaggressively in the bayou , a full 80 yards from the boardwalk near Blind Pass condominiums . More recently , a woman observed an alligator eating turtles in a pond by Hurricane Lane . Imagine that . Nature in action . On a rare occasion , an alligator will do something that is difficult to explain . For example , last October , a resort manager called the police to report that an 18 ? inch long baby alligator bit a landscaper on his only . ” I’m not kidding . At least the boot . That’s right , the alligator “ latched onto the heel of his boot little gator was smart enough to flee into the pond when the police officer arrived on the scene .Recreating in all the wrong places Once in a while , people will call because they see alligators where they thought alligators would not go , like on the beach , or even in the surf . Trust me , alligators do visit the beach now and then . I’ve photographed them there . Then there was the 3 ? foot gator that went to the ball field . It was taken by the police to a body of water off of Island Inn road , to join the small gators who’d been removed from swimming pools .One resident of a lane off of Beach Road repeatedly called the police about an alligator in the water near his property . One day , it dared to sun itself on his property . The trapper was called , but was unable to capture the alligator on February 4 . Some people were a little confused about their neighboring wildlife . A man on Joewood Lane in Gulf Ridge called to report the presence of an iguana . It was actually a 2.5 ? foot alligator , which retreated into the water when the police officer approached . an alligator . A couple returned to Now here’s a case where someone really did have a problem with their home in East Rocks to find an 8 ? foot alligator asleep in front of the side door . The couple did not have a key to the front door , and so could not enter their home . But the alligator was gone , thankfully , the police arrived . The residents said they did not feel that the gator posed any threat . He by the time was just in the way . In the final incident of the reporting year , a realtor reported a 3 ? foot alligator in the retention pond at swam to the middle of the pond when the police Sundial on Middle Gulf Drive . The smart alligator officer approached . The police officer was unable to catch the wily gator , which appeared to fear humans . The final tally ? 113 incidents , 21 reports sent to the alligator trapper , and a total of 4 alligators removed ( destroyed ) and 21 relocated on the island . I wish no alligators had been destroyed ; and I sincerely hope that these four were not destroyed needlessly . What you can do What can you do to protect alligators from this sad fate ? ? Communicate : Be sure new residents in your neighborhood are informed about alligators . ? Educate : Inform people that it is illegal to feed alligators . This criminal act is punishable by up to a $ 500 fine and 60 days in jail . If you see people feeding alligators on Sanibel , call the police at 472 ? 3111 . Feeding alligators is dangerous and it makes the alligators dangerous . ? Calls that can kill : Do NOT call the police about an alligator unless the alligator is behaving in a predatory manner toward humans . Complaining to the police about nonaggressive alligators can result in these animals being destroyed needlessly . Also , unfortunately , trappers have been alligators . So please do not call the police known to knowingly take and destroy the wrong unless there is a threatening alligator . And by the way , an alligator sitting still with his mouth open is only trying to cool off ; his open mouth is not a sign of aggression . ? Remember where you are : Be aware that alligators were here before people came to Sanibel . Who would move to south Florida and then expect the alligators to leave ? ? Keep your distance : Never approach alligators . Do not linger at the edge of fresh or brackish caution , water bodies , especially at dusk , night , or dawn , and especially in warmer weather . Use and be aware of your surroundings . ? Be smart : Do not work with your back to the water , especially in a crouching position . Do not swim in fresh or brackish water bodies in south Florida . ? Mind the innocents : Never allow small children or dogs to play near the water unsupervised . Pet cats should be kept indoors ( not only for their own safety , but also for the safety of birds ) .All photographs by Barbara Joy Cooley As mysanibel.com says , remember that alligators are “ an important part of Sanibel’s natural history as well as an integral component of our freshwater ecosystem . ” The Committee of the Islands was founded in 1975 by those who helped incorporate Sanibel as an independent , self ? governing city within Lee County . Guided by the mission of these founders , the Committee seeks to ensure the continuity of good local government , to protect the environment , and to preserve the sanctuary character of our barrier island community . Further information is available on to coti @ coti.org . You can also visit Committee of the Committee''s website at www.coti.org , or via email the Islands on Facebook .