Wednesday, April 25, 2007

I only wanted a belt !

TAMPA, Fla. -- A man who was arrested for butchering an alligator on his front lawn said he only wanted a new belt.

Benjamin Hodges, 35, says he found the dead alligator floating in the Hillsborough River on Sunday and took it home in a shopping cart. He figured it was 4 feet or 5 feet long.

Just as Hodges flopped the carcass on the ground and started to cut it open, the police showed up and arrested him, the report said. An anonymous caller had reported him to the state wildlife agency, which contacted Tampa officers for assistance.

He is charged with killing or possessing an alligator, both of which are illegal in Florida. It's a felony punishable by up to 60 days in jail and a $500 fine. Hodges said he knew of a man at a flea market who might be able to craft a belt for him.

"I didn't think there was anything illegal about skinning a dead gator," he told The Tampa Tribune. He is free on a $2,000 bond.

The American alligator is protected in Florida as a species of special concern, and hunting is tightly controlled. Only state-licensed trappers can kill alligators out of season. As for dead alligators, officials recommend letting turtles or crabs dispose of them naturally.

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