While Villagers expressed surprise and frustration Thursday over the removal of Larry the Alligator from his Brownwood pond, a District government official said there were good reasons to make the move.
District Manager Richard Baier said the decision was made to relocate Larry to Gatorland in Orlando after District Property Management received reports of him beginning to become too comfortable around people. He said they also had received reports of some residents feeding the large alligator, which is illegal in the State of Florida.
“People were just getting a little too close to him,” Baier said.
Larry, who has his own Facebook page and is immensely popular with Villagers, recently was featured in a video walking across a golf cart path near his Brownwood pond, which is located just off County Road 44-A and Shady Nook Run, between the Eisenhower Recreation Center and Brownwood. That video, shot by Villager Marc Scher and his son, Jacob, was picked up by many news organizations and shared across a variety of platforms. And Baier said officials noticed even larger crowds coming out to see Larry after the video was released.
“We couldn’t take any chances and we had to use an abundance of caution,” Baier said, pointing out that Larry even swam toward the trapper instead of fleeing from him as most alligators would do when he was being caught to be relocated to Gatorland.
Baier added that he’s happy to know the alligator loved by so many in Florida’s Friendliest Hometown will live out his life in the nice environment offered by Gatorland.
“He’ll be used for educational purposes,” Baier said. “And he won’t have to worry about finding food or anything like that.”
On Thursday, Gatorland released photos and a video of Larry getting acclimated to his new home. And the company’s President & CEO, Mark McHugh, said they were thrilled to have him join the roughly 2,000 alligators at the facility.
“Larry’s a rock star, no doubt about it,” he said. “The people at The Villages loved him. He’s a great animal. But then again, he’s a big, 11-foot, 700-pound alligator and that’s a dangerous animal. With all the kids, the grandkids and the people around The Villages, it was a bad situation.”
McHugh said Larry definitely can look forward to his time at Gatorland.
“He’ll live it out on big lakes with fish and turtles in it, female alligators, he’s going to have a great life,” he said.
Gatorland also mounted Larry’s sign from the fence in The Villages to a railing next to his new lake. And they encouraged visitors from Florida’s Friendliest Hometown and other fans of Larry to come out and see him.
“We will personally try to hunt him down and see if we can locate him for you,” said Donny Aldarelli, one of the many alligator experts at the park.
“We are very happy to have Larry at Gatorland to take good care of his health and safety, as we have done for many other Florida alligators that have gotten too big and too close to people in the communities where they lived,” he said. “It’s part of our Gatorland Global conservation program.”