The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission is investigating the legality of the taking of as many as two alligators from Lake Wimico.
According to Lt. Stan Kirkland with the FWC, the agency launched an investigation after receiving a complaint last week.
The event occurred sometime in the past two weeks, Kirkland said.
“We have launched an investigation and are going through the process,” Kirkland said. “We are taking this seriously.”
The complaint is focused on whether and how the gators were taken.
The recreational season for alligator harvest – for which the state issues more than 3,000 permits annually, Kirkland said – does not open until later this week and continues through November.
Kirkland said some private entities are issued permits to take gators.
“Essentially there are private landowners that have permits year round,” Kirkland said.
The investigation is focused at least in part on whether a private permit was used to take the gators impermissibly.
“It is still early in the investigation,” Kirkland said, adding that additional details would not be available until the conclusion of the investigation.
The investigation may or may not be related to a recent trip taken on Lake Wimico by several county-paid individuals during non-work time.
That trip was mentioned during a recent BOCC meeting and was the subject of a separate anonymous complaint to this newspaper, which contacted the FWC and received information about its investigation.
Jennifer Jenkins, executive director of the Tourist Development Council, who mentioned the excursion briefly during a BOCC meeting, said FWC officers had contacted her regarding her trip.
Jenkins said she was on her own time and the trip was not part of any contract involving the TDC.
The TDC had examined the potential of creating a “sizzle reel” as part of a pitch for a gator harvesting television show that would spotlight a county business, which County Commissioner Carmen McLemore had discussed during public meetings, but discussions had never gone beyond the preliminary stage.
A similar project involving the South Gulf County Volunteer Fire Department – part of a pitch for a television show spotlighting rural departments – was recently undertaken and the resulting “sizzle reel” is part of a pitch to broadcast television networks.