Man Arrested for Stealing Gator and Abusing it to 'Teach it a Lesson'

A Florida man was recently arrested for stealing and abusing an alligator. Police said the man has been charged with five offenses including animal cruelty, possession/injury of an alligator and burglary, all of which are felonies under Florida law.

The Daytona Beach Shores Department of Public Safety shared to their Facebook page Thursday that a man named William "Bubba" Hodge was found carrying an alligator down Highway A1A late Wednesday night. He was arrested shortly after police observed Hodge attempting to throw the alligator onto the roof of a nearby business.

According to the arrest report obtained by Newsweek, Hodge grabbed the alligator by its tail and hit it twice against a building awning. Police said Hodge also threw the gator over his shoulder and onto the ground, and "slammed" the gator onto the ground by its tail before stomping on it twice.

When police approached Hodge, he immediately surrendered and was taken into custody.

Hodge told police he stole the alligator from Congo River Golf, a mini-golf course that contains live gators for guests to feed. He allegedly jumped the fence into the alligator enclosure, though how he escaped with the alligator remains unclear. When an officer asked Hodge why he decided to throw the alligator around, Hodge simply responded: "To teach it a lesson."

The alligator has since been returned to the owner of Congo River Golf, and Hodge faces charges for animal cruelty, possession and injury of an alligator, unarmed burglary of an unoccupied dwelling, petit theft and criminal mischief.

Under Florida law, killing or injuring an alligator is a third-degree felony, reports ClickOrlando. It is also a felony to capture an alligator or its eggs without a state-designated trapping or farming license.

Alligators were once listed as endangered, and many feared that they would one day go extinct, reported the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWC). But the Endangered Species Act of 1973 prohibited alligator hunting, allowing the species to "rebound." In 1987, alligators were pronounced to be fully recovered; however, due to their similarity in appearance to other threatened animals—including several species of crocodiles—they are still protected by law.

As a result, the alligator harvest program was established in the state of Florida in 1988 as a way to conserve and control the growing alligator population. Currently, the FWC estimates there to be 1.3 million gators in Florida.

A Florida man was arrested for stealing and abusing an alligator. William "Bubba" Hodge was found carrying an alligator down Highway A1A late Wednesday night. BlueBarronPhoto/iStock