By Debbie Burke
In 1967, alligators were close to extinction in the US and placed on the Endangered Species List. Under federal and state protection, the reptile population rebounded enough that they were removed from the list in 1987.
Alligators have recovered nicely, thank you very much. Nowadays, many people consider them pests because they’re found in swimming pools, on golf courses, and in carports. In Florida, special fencing was installed along interstates to keep them from wandering onto freeways.
There’s even a long-running reality TV series called “Swamp People” about professional gator hunters.
Florida’s gator hunting season runs from August 15 to November 1 with more than 7000 permits issued. Over this past Labor Day weekend, a woman caught this shot on I-95 in Brevard County and the photo went viral. Apparently, this hunter successfully filled his tag.
Deep-fried alligator tail is featured at many restaurants—the texture is similar to gristly Rocky Mountain Oysters (bull testicles) with a fishy overtone. Neither is on my list of favorite delicacies.
An alligator was even used as a deadly weapon, according to Palm Beach County prosecutors.
In October, 2015, Joshua James, in his early 20s, picked up a live, three-foot-long alligator at the side of the road and tossed it in the back seat of his truck. At 1:30 a.m., he ordered a drink at the Wendy’s drive-through in Loxahatchee, Florida. When the cashier momentarily turned away, James added an unexpected tip—he tossed the gator through the open drive-up window and drove off.
He wasn’t caught for several months. When arrested in February, 2016, he admitted throwing the gator and claims he didn’t realize anyone would take his prank seriously. Apparently, he knew someone who worked at the restaurant and thought they would be there at the time.
James was charged with “assault with a deadly weapon with intent to do less than murder” and “unlawful possession of alligator or parts,” both misdemeanors. Bond was set at $6000 with the condition he stay away from any animals except his mother’s dog.
Here’s an interview with James after he made bail.
According to his mother, Linda James: “It was just a stupid prank that he did that’s now turning into this. He’s a prankster. He does stuff like this because he thinks it’s funny.”
When asked if she thought the Wendy’s employees saw it as a prank, she replied, “Well, I mean, how could you not think something like that was a prank?”
Judge Barry Cohen didn’t agree. At trial in May, 2016, he told James, “In my view there is absolutely no excuse for taking an animal, particularly an alligator, and throwing it through a window at a total stranger.”
According to the Sun Sentinel, “David Hitzig, executive director of the Busch Wildlife Sanctuary, testified that the alligator, while under four feet in length, would still be ‘very powerful’ with extremely strong jaws.”
James apologized for his “stupid prank.”
Judge Cohen sentenced James to a year of probation, $500 fine, and 75 hours community service.
No one was hurt in the incident, including the alligator. It was not called to testify and Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission officers released it into a canal.
As the woman who took the viral gator photo said, “This is Floriduh.”
TKZers: Have you heard of unusual weapons used in commission of crimes? Please share.