1. Clearwater

First an alligator came crashing through her window. Now what?

An 11-foot alligator is seen in the Clearwater home of Mary Wischhusen early May 31. [Clearwater Police Department]
An 11-foot alligator is seen in the Clearwater home of Mary Wischhusen early May 31. [Clearwater Police Department]
Published Jun. 28

CLEARWATER — For 77-year-old Mary Wischhusen, an 11-foot alligator crashing through her kitchen window has turned out to be "a fun thing, really."

Sure, the alligator broke her good red wine bottles and countertop glass. It also left fist-deep holes in the wall from swinging its thick tail around, and took a bite out of two chairs.

But the police and fire rescue workers who responded to her house early May 31st were cute, Wischhusen said. And nobody got hurt.

Not Lovie the 2-year-old parakeet, who was in a back room. Not Wischhusen herself, who was taken out of the back entrance to watch the emergency responders wrangle with the gator.

Soon, Wischhusen would realize, she had become something of a celebrity.

READ MORE: Aggressive, 11-foot alligator busts through window of Clearwater home

Since word of the alligator caper spread a month ago, Wischhusen said she's been stopped and asked if she's the 'gator lady.' Strangers have left red wine on her doorstep to replace the bottles she lost.

One morning, she woke up to a sign hung over her door knocker:

"Enter at your own risk," it read, with green, webbed gator claws on either side.

"I'm amazed," Wischhusen said. "It should have died about three weeks ago."

Wischhusen said she's used to seeing alligators, coyotes and other animals by her house, which is located near two golf courses and off a retention pond southwest of the McMullen Booth and Curlew road intersection.

Experts think the alligator was seeking a mate and got confused by its reflection in the glass. Or it may have been running away from a newspaper delivery woman who also saw the alligator.

During alligator hunts, few permits are filed in Pinellas County because of how urban it is.

From 2008 to 2018, 418 alligators were captured in Pinellas County by Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission trappers after being reported as a nuisance, said Tammy Sapp, a spokeswoman. Statewide last year, a total of 8,139 alligators were captured.

Alligators generally do not bother people. Wildlife Commission records dating back to 1948 show the number of alligator bites to people statewide, fatal and nonfatal, has never exceed 15 in a given year. The alligator removed from Wischhusen's house was taken alive and transferred to a facility, according to Melody Kilborn, another Wildlife Commission spokeswoman.

Wischhusen expects the buzz around the encounter will die down soon. Aside from the new hurricane-strength doors she's planning to have installed, the house will be the same.

"We'll get back to normal," she said.

Except for the dent in the bottom of her refrigerator, knocked in by the alligator's swinging tail.

That's her souvenir.

Contact Romy Ellenbogen at or Follow @romyellenbogen.


  1. Tech Data CEO Rich Hume (left) shares a moment with his predecessor, Bob Dutkowsky, during a send-off celebration for Dutkowsky on June 7, 2018 at the company's 
 headquarters in Largo. At the time, Tech Data had already received the first in what would become a series of purchase offers from New York-based private equity giant Apollo Global Management. Along the way, Dutkowsky would play a key role in negotiations with Apollo. JIM DAMASKE   |   Times (2018)
    Apollo Global Management has been trying to buy Tech Data for a year and a half. Along the way, four other companies were interested, too. Two made offers.
  2. Pinellas County Commission chairwoman Karen Seel said a Tampa economic development group's recent decision to put "Tampa Bay" into its name "does great harm to the progress we have made on regional collaboration."
    But in Tampa, the chief executive officer of the nonprofit, government-supported economic development group is giving no sign of backing off the new name.
  3. Yankee pitcher CC Sabathia, who played 19 seasons before injuries ended his career this fall, greets children attending the Yankees holiday concert at the Straz Center in Tampa on Thursday. Sabathia was joined by his wife Amber, right. [New York Yankees]
    Long-time host and retired news anchor John Wilson passed the torch this year to a new emcee, his son Mark Wilson.
  4. A rendering of what Clearwater's downtown waterfront will look like once Imagine Clearwater's plans come to fruition. The mock-up is oriented so the top is the western waterfront and the bottom is the the eastern waterfront. In the southwest, a lake is planned underneath the Memorial Causeway. A shaded bluff walk will run along the waterfront's eastern edge, and in the middle of the complex, Clearwater plans a 4,000-seat covered concert venue. To the north, what is now Coachman Park will be re-imagined as a new garden. [Stantec via the City of Clearwater]
    Here’s one thing: People are worried about parking.
  5. Clearwater police Maj. David Dalton stands with Yael Hershfield, deputy director of the Anti-Defamation League's Florida region, after receiving the league's law enforcement award Tuesday in Palm Beach. The organization recognized Dalton for “his commitment to ensuring that law enforcement personnel adhere to the highest standards of policing while treating all citizens fairly and with respect," according to a news release. [Courtesy of David Dalton] [Courtesy of David Dalton]
    Clearwater Maj. David Dalton received the Anti-Defamation League’s law enforcement award for “his commitment to ensuring that law enforcement personnel adhere to the highest standards of policing...
  6. All 13 candidates running for three Clearwater City Council seats participated in a forum at St. Petersburg College Clearwater library on Dec. 7. [TRACEY MCMANUS  |  Tampa Bay Times]
    With nine candidates running for two council seats and four vying for mayor, the season’s first forum served as an introduction.
  7. DIRK SHADD   |   Times
The closed sign hangs on the entrance of the tract at Oldsmar BMX, 3120 Tampa Road, in Oldsmar on Friday, May 3, 2019. The world famous BMX track in Oldsmar shut down suddenly earlier this year. The city cited safety concerns after a routine building inspection, and a subsequent report confirmed that serious structural issues in the track's walls exist. [DIRK SHADD  |  Tampa Bay Times]
    The track remains closed indefinitely.
  8. Cars pack Interstate 275 south just past downtown Tampa. Downtown Tampa is the loudest neighborhood in the Tampa metropolitan area, which is the loudest metro in the nation, according to a Zillow analysis based on noise-mapping data collected in urban and rural areas nationwide by the National Park Service. (Times (2010) [Times (2010)]
    The online real estate company used sound-mapping information collected by the National Park Service (yes, really) to compile its noisiest metros ranking.
  9. Prospective rivals to Apollo Global Management had until 11:59 p.m. Monday to submit a competing bid for Tech Data during what is known as a "go-shop" period. [DIRK SHADD  |  Tampa Bay Times]
    Prospective bidders had until 11:59 p.m. Monday to submit competing offers for Tech Data during what is known as a “go-shop” period.
  10. Largo police are looking for a man accused of sexually battering and robbing a woman inside a massage business on E Bay Drive on Dec. 8. [Largo Police Department]
    The incident took place on Sunday and police are searching for a suspect.