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In May, James Miller, wastewater operator 2, was working on one of the facility’s clarifiers. He’d been cleaning the weirs and performing some basic maintenance on the tank for about 2 or 3 hours. As he got ready to move to the other side of the tank, he leaned under the catwalk and got a surprise.
Lying about 1 or 1.2 m (3 or 4 ft) away was an alligator. This wasn’t one of the “little old small ones that live in the drainage ditch,” Miller said. This gator measured about 2.9 m (9.5 ft). Luckily, the gator’s back was to Miller and it never moved to attack, he said.
To get out the gator, the staff called wildlife management experts. The gator lived in the clarifier for 2 days until the trappers retrieved it.
The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission considers any alligator larger than 1.2 m (4 ft) to be a “nuisance alligator.” According to the commission, trapped alligators become the property of the trapper. Usually, these alligators are killed and processed for their hides and meat. Occasionally, a nuisance alligator is sold alive to an alligator farm, animal exhibit, or zoo.
All kinds of wildlife run around the plant, Miller said. Deer, raccoons, even armadillos can be found at the facility, especially at night. Even this 9.5-ft gator wasn’t a major concern, other than the fact that he didn’t belong in the tank, Miller said.
Adjacent to that clarifier is a runoff ditch that collects stormwater from nearby streets. Miller said there are two or three larger alligators that live in that ditch. “I guess he climbed up the hill and underneath the fence. That tank is low to the ground right there, so they could get in pretty easily,” he said. Still, Miller added, “It’s very rare that we ever find any inside of the tanks.”
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