JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – If you ever thought others were crazy when they said alligators live in Florida storm drains, let this story be all the proof you need.
Standing outside a Jacksonville restaurant last month, a toddler alerted his father to what he thought was a turtle in the sewer. They were both shocked to discover it was a 6-foot alligator.
Joe Brenner and his 2-year-old were aghast upon discovering the beast laying beneath the storm grates.
"We were all just kind of shocked," Brenner said. "We are used to alligators here in Florida, especially in this town since it’s a marsh, but it was a surreal and somewhat funny situation."
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The Baltimore native said he had heard rumors that there were alligators in Florida sewers, but thought it was simply a myth.
"So to see it in real life was so interesting and felt like a once-in-a-lifetime catch," Brenner said.
Alligators are most active and visible when the weather is warm, and in some places in Florida, that can occur year-round, Tammy Sapp, a spokeswoman for the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation, said.
Alligators live in all 67 counties in Florida, inhabiting all wetlands where there’s adequate food and shelter.
"They prefer freshwater lakes and slow-moving rivers and their associated wetlands. Occasionally, alligators wind up in places that are not acceptable," Sapp said.
Serious injuries caused by alligators are rare in Florida.
Floridians with concerns about an alligator should call the conservation department’s toll-free Nuisance Alligator Hotline at 866-FWC-GATOR (866-392-4286), and they will dispatch a trapper to resolve the situation.