Florida Man Arrested for Using Mower Blades to 'Intentionally' Hit Gator

A Florida man was arrested for "intentionally" hitting a gator with mower blades, Fox 35 News reported. He has been released on bond, but because alligators are protected by law in the state of Florida, he currently faces charges for felony cruelty to animals and illegal killing.

According to the news station, a witness spotted Steven Dariff clearing brush with a large tractor near Takoma Farms Road in Daytona Beach in June. When a 6-foot gator left the water and approached Dariff's tractor, he reportedly "scared the gator away" by hitting the water with the tractor's mower blades.

But the interaction didn't stop there.

The witness reportedly told officials that when the gator came back onto the bank, Dariff drove towards the alligator and dropped the mowing blades on top of it, severely injuring the gator.

Additionally, Florida Fish and Wildlife (FWC) officers found several broken alligator shells from a nest at the scene.

The entire interaction, says Fox 35 News, was captured on video.

Based on the evidence, FWC officers believe that Dariff intentionally hit the gator and destroyed the nest. So, he was arrested.

As previously reported by Newsweek, alligators are protected by law, and it is thereby illegal to kill or injure one in the state of Florida.

Of course, the state is known for its abundant alligator population, and alligator-human conflict does happen. To both address problematic gators and protect Floridians, the FWC established a nuisance gator program, which allows authorized trappers to remove potentially threatening gators from populated areas.

To have a nuisance gator removed, an individual should call the FWC's nuisance gator hotline.

In an effort to manage the population and prevent conflict, the FWC also created the alligator harvest program, giving license holders the right to hunt the species in designated counties throughout the year.

Unless attacked, killing a gator should not be someone's first response, especially if that person doesn't have a license.

But Dariff claims his actions were not intentional.

Dariff told the officer that he was mowing the canal when the gator "lunged at the mower's blade," reports Wesh 2 News. He also claimed that he didn't realize he'd hit the nest until after it had been destroyed.

In a conversation with the outlet, Dariff said he "didn't kill a gator."

The gator was alive when FWC officers arrived at the scene, but it had sustained severe injuries to the head and had missing limbs. Officers had no other option than to euthanize the creature.

In a statement from the FWC obtained by Newsweek about the seriousness of the incident, a spokesperson said: "The alligator received life-threatening wounds. Due to the seriousness of the injuries, the alligator was euthanized. Charges have been filed with the Volusia County State Attorney's Office. The FWC takes the harassment and unlawful killing of our alligators very seriously."

Dariff was released from jail and is currently awaiting trial. Wesh 2 News reports that a pre-trial hearing has been set for October, though the defendant has "waived his right to appear during that hearing."

Fox 35 News states that Dariff faces charges of felony cruelty to animals and illegal killings, as well as possessing or capturing of alligators.

08/27/2021: The story has been updated to include a statement from the FWC.

florida alligator
A Florida alligator in a canal. RHONA WISE / Contributor/Getty