Trappers capture 12-foot alligator in Florida

After a 10-year-old girl escaped the jaws of a hungry alligator, USA TODAY found the best tactics to survive an attack.

INDIAN RIVER COUNTY — Trappers captured a 12-foot alligator on a beach near The Moorings late Sunday.

Justin Morrison, 25, of Vero Beach, got a call about the gator after dark Sunday. He quickly headed to the shore near Saint Christopher Lane, off State Road A1A in the southern part of the county.

Morrison has been hunting alligators for more than a decade and trapping nuisance alligators for more than a year, but he said Sunday was the first time he had picked one up on the beach.

He said it's rare for alligators to show up beachside, especially outside of mating season, which ended in June.

"There's a ton of alligators in the river that people don't know about," Morrison said. "But alligators that size, they're not usually in neighborhoods or off the beach."

Indian River County undersheriff James Harpring said a woman called 911 when she spotted the alligator on the shoreline about 7:30 p.m. Sunday.

Morrison said he heard the woman was walking her two dogs at the time.

When Morrison arrived at the beach, he said the gator appeared worn out from trying to get past the waves.

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He first tossed a lasso around the reptile's neck as it stood in shallow water close to shore.

"Then you just gotta jump on their back and get control of their head," he said.

Morrison next taped the creature's eyes shut to calm it down.

"Once you get their eyes shut, they calm down and tend not to move and squirm so much," Morrison said. "They can't see, and they don't want to hurt themselves."

Florida Fish & Wildlife Conservation Commission spokesperson Greg Workman said the gator measured 12 feet 1 inch long.

"That's one of the bigger ones we've caught out here," Morrison said.

He said a gator that size could pose a serious threat to pets or small children, although most gators are more scared of humans than we are of them.

Daniel DeGrazia, one of Indian River County's licensed trappers, was originally dispatched by FWC, but DeGrazia was working at Martin County Fire Rescue, so he called Morrison. Morrison works full time at Morrison Plumbing, a family-owned business in Vero Beach.


Morrison said after a deputy told him how big the gator was, he enlisted the help of Garrett Abernathy, who recently started trapping with him.

The trappers carried the alligator off the beach and put it in a transport box in the back of Morrison's truck.

The alligator will be relocated far from the area, according to the Sheriff's Office.

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