Make us your home page
Instagram

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Visit by big alligator shakes up Pasco car lot

An alligator measuring 8 feet 7 inches is corralled by a trapper at Sun Toyota on Tuesday. “I was shaking,” said Denise Anderson, the first person to see the gator.

Courtesy of Michael Chaparro

An alligator measuring 8 feet 7 inches is corralled by a trapper at Sun Toyota on Tuesday. “I was shaking,” said Denise Anderson, the first person to see the gator.

NEW PORT RICHEY — Something moved in the shadows. Denise Anderson peered close and then froze. Next to the used Toyota Sequoia she planned to test drive was an alligator.

"I saw its eyes. Mouth. Its jaws. Its teeth," said Anderson, 33.

It measured 8 feet 7 inches.

Now, Anderson isn't a runner.

"I don't run," she said.

But she sprinted in her flip-flops "like Speedy Gonzalez," according to Michael Chaparro, 24, the Sun Toyota salesman who was walking over to assist her when he heard her scream Tuesday morning. He thought she had seen a spider.

The car lot is at U.S. 19 and State Road 54, one of west Pasco County's busiest intersections. It's all concrete, asphalt and engines — nothing that says, "Please check under your car for alligators."

"She was freaking out, jumping, like a football high step," Chaparro said. He couldn't understand what she was saying, so he walked to where she pointed, between the cars and then back toward the rear. The gator had slipped under a Toyota Highlander by that time.

He crouched down to get a look. And then he freaked out.

"It was hissing," he said.

He called 911. Deputies came from the Pasco County Sheriff's Office and cordoned off the area. A licensed trapper was called. Chaparro said deputies had a time trying to keep the swelling crowd back.

The gator "looked scared," Anderson said. She kept her distance. The only other gator she had seen was in Busch Gardens.

"You know, a place where they aren't going to hurt me," she said.

Chaparro documented the incident with his Blackberry and later, in his cubicle in a back corner, put together a video to the music of Michael Jackson's Beat It — chosen, he said, because the alligator had to go.

"Check this out. Look at the size of this freakin' gator," he said, reviewing his video, which he hoped to post to Sun Toyota's Web site, www.suntoyota.com. "And look at the trapper. He's barefoot.

"Tell me that's not freakin' crazy."

The trapper prodded the gator from under the car, lassoed it and tethered the rope to his truck. Chaparro said he asked the man if he was going to release the creature back into the wild.

"And he said, 'Yeah, I'll release it — into my cooler,' " Chaparro said. "He said he was taking it back to Dade City to eat it."

Mark Lewis, a duty officer with the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, said trapped gators that measure 4 feet or longer are "generally disposed."

Spring is when gators are active. "This time of year, we are inundated with calls," Lewis said.

Chaparro said there are some canals behind the dealership and he figures that's where the gator came from — probably either looking for love, as it's mating season, or food.

The buzz of excitement from the incident lingered hours later.

"Man, it was an awesome day," Chaparro said.

Anderson, a nurse and mother of three from Hudson, quaked for some time afterward.

"You don't expect to see an alligator at a car dealership," she said.

But she did stay for a few hours, to put through some paperwork to possibly buy a car.

But not that one.

Erin Sullivan can be reached at esullivan@sptimes.com.

FAST FACTS

Dealing with alligators

If you encounter an alligator that is 4 feet or longer and poses a threat to you, your pets or your property, call the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission's toll-free Nuisance Alligator Hotline at 1-866-392-4286.

For information about living with alligators, go to www.myfwc.com/wildlifehabitats/alligator_index.htm.

Visit by big alligator shakes up Pasco car lot 04/28/09 [Last modified: Wednesday, April 29, 2009 2:24pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. Epilogue: Former Salty Sisters captain Ernestine Mittermayr, 92

    Human Interest

    ST. PETERSBURG — Ernestine Mittermayr was proud to be a Salty Sister, one of a group of women sailors in the city.

  2. Bucs journal: Kicker Nick Folk has up and downs against Jaguars

    Bucs

    JACKSONVILLE — If the Bucs had hoped for a drama-free night in their kicking game, they'll have to wait another week.

    Bucs kicker Nick Folk celebrates one of his two made field goals against the Jaguars, but he also misses a field goal and has an extra point blocked.
  3. Late night update: Second wave follows Tropical Storm Harvey

    Hurricanes

    UPDATE: At 11 p.m. the National Hurricane Center said a hurricane hunter plane had determined that Tropical Storm Harvey had formed with sustained winds of 40 mph.

    Three tropical waves are expected to strengthen as they move across the Atlantic Ocean. [Courtesy of the National Hurricane Center]
  4. Stealth anti-Jack Latvala group tied to Adam Putnam campaign

    Blogs

    Politico reports:

     A longtime political consultant for Republican gubernatorial candidate Adam Putnam is behind a website calling one of his rivals in the race, state Sen. Jack Latvala, a “liberal.”

  5. Council gives in to pension dispute with St. Pete firefighters

    Local Government

    ST. PETERSBURG — The City Council was forced to consider its first labor dispute in years Thursday when it gave the firefighters union most of the pension enhancements it has long asked for.

    The firefighters’ union won a pension victory at Thursday’s City Council meeting. [SCOTT KEELER    |      TIMES]