The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) sent a nuisance wildlife trapper to assist a Pasco County maritime unit to catch the gator off of Durney Key, an island near the Gulf of Mexico, the Pasco County Sheriff’s Office wrote on Facebook.
The alligator was chasing scallopers in the Cotee River, which dumps out into the Gulf, the sheriff's office said. No one was injured. Deputies estimated the gator was 12-15 feet long.
"It's unusual. That’s the first one I’ve ever caught out in the Gulf," alligator trapper Rick Vetter told WFTS-TV. He estimated the gator weighed nearly 300 pounds.
The FWC website says that gators are rarely found in saltwater habitats, preferring freshwater lakes and slow-moving rivers. They can also reside in brackish water habitats.
The trapper relocated the gator to a “safe location,” according to the sheriff’s office. However, FWC officials told WFLA-TV that the gator will be harvested for its meat and hide.
The agency doesn’t relocate nuisance gators because they often return to their capture site, according to its website. Releasing the reptiles into remote areas can cause problems for the already healthy alligator populations, resulting in fighting or death.
About 1.3 million alligators inhabit all 67 counties in Florida, according to the agency.