SANIBEL ISLAND – Licensed reptile-trappers in Sanibel Island (search), Fla., have started to scale back a scaly population that has been left unchecked for 30 years.
Nearly 100 alligators have been killed so far and despite some protest from residents, officials say gator season will remain open indefinitely.
After three brutal attacks in three years — two of them deadly – Florida has declared open season on Sanibel Island's neighborhood alligators (search). For decades, the tourist spot stood alone and rejected a statewide rule to kill problem gators that are more than 4 feet long.
"The alligator is a predator and it has been shown here on Sanibel that you have to be very careful and watch what you're doing, and the incidents we've had show you can't always live in harmony with an alligator," said Sanibel Island Police Chief William Tomlinson.
The so-called “seek-and-slaughter” approach of trappers has been controversial on the island and has angered many longtime residents.
“This is wholesale slaughter of the alligators and I think it's totally unnecessary,” said Mary Jalkut, an area resident.
Island conservationists reluctantly support the program and argue the dangers of a big population of large alligators on a tiny island outweigh any wish for coexistence.
"As members of the community … we're also concerned first and foremost of public safety," said Brad Smith of the Sanibel-Captiva Conservation Foundation. "We're sort of looking at this as a necessary approach right now,” .
Click in the box near the top of the story to watch a report by FOX News' Todd Connor.