North Tampa man catches, wrestles gator
A North Tampa man was able to think quickly, and get a bit lucky, when he wrestled a 7-foot alligator so it could be removed from a neighbor's house on Tuesday. Sharon Solberg saw the gator lying outside a neighbor's garage door Tuesday afternoon in the Lake Forest development, north of Bruce B. Downs Boulevard near the intersection with Bearss Avenue. One of her neighbors called the police and sheriff's department, but was told they would need to get an animal trapper to remove the gator. That's when she got her 21-year-old son."I didn't think much of it," said Caleb, who was not hurt. "I just needed to be on my toes. "We have little kids in the neighborhood. We can't have gators on the loose." Caleb tried to get the gator with a rope, but it moved one house down the street. The gator snapped at Caleb. He tried to lasso the gator, but it squirmed and the rope slipped back to its tail. That's when Caleb, the youngest of five brothers, jumped on its back and put his hands on its head. He knew he needed to secure the animal's mouth, but the only tape his mother had was masking tape. Some neighbors told her that it wouldn't be strong enough to work, but it did long enough for Caleb to release it. Another neighbor drove Caleb to a lake in the back of the development where he cut off the tape and the animal slid into the water. Looking back, Caleb said he acted kind of like Steve Irwin, from the "Crocodile Hunter" television show. He figures all the rain might have raised the level of the water and that allowed the gator to crawl onto residential property. He did not get a lot of applause, but a neighbor from down the street drove by and she said good job. His mother said the family has lived on lakes so the children have experience with the wildlife in the area. Her oldest son has recordings of gator calls on his phone, she said, and plays them near the water's edge to attract the animals. Florida wildlife officials, however, frown on non-professionals attempting to catch alligators. "Not only is it illegal to handle and capture alligators, it's also very dangerous," Gary Morse of the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission said. "The public should not attempt to catch an alligator." He said when there's an alligator emergency, the public should call the department's toll-free gator hotline at (866) 392-4286. "When there's an emergency, we can get officers there almost immediately," he said.