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Gator that got dog is eluding trapper so far

An alligator that killed a dog last weekend in the water around Sunlit Cove has thus far eluded trappers.

But the gator's victim has been identified. Neighbors thought it was a German shepherd that was mauled by the gator, but Joseph Dougherty said the victim was his 92-pound mastiff, Max.

"He was a beautiful dog," Dougherty said Wednesday. "He loved kids, he loved other dogs and he loved cats."

Dougherty took Max in seven years ago when the dog wandered to his house, skin and bones with a lame left foot. Dougherty has been distributing fliers and trying to spread the word that the alligator is in the waterway.

"It chills me to the bone," he said. "I saw kids swimming in the water until sunset on Sunday evening."

Lt. Jeff Hudson, Nuisance Alligator Program coordinator for the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, said attacking a dog does not mean the gator is a threat to humans.

"That's normal gator behavior," he said.

Tuesday, alligator trapper Joe Borelli baited a hook near the gator's usual haunts. A warrant had previously been issued for the gator's capture, and Borelli had reported to the area on four occasions to search for it, Hudson said.

When _ or if _ the gator takes the bait, the trapper takes it away to be killed. Large, aggressive gators are killed on-site.

The trappers work on a contract to round up gators at no cost to the state. They sell gator meat and hide, getting about $300 for a 6-footer, Hudson said.

Alligators, like black widow spiders and water moccasins, are just a fact of Florida life, Hudson said. While some might like to see them eradicated, they keep other animal populations in check _ including poisonous snakes.

"People need to respect (nature) and try to interfere as little as possible," Hudson said. "If you feed or interact in ways that are not natural you start getting problems."