County’s Only Female Trapper Captures River Hills Gator After Playground Sighting

By Kathy L Collins

All who have lived in Florida for any length of time know that the state has many beautiful habitats which support many animals, including alligators. Because of human intrusion into their habitats, weather and many other factors, alligators sometimes venture into what we humans consider our territory. When that happens, we need the services of a State Nuisance Alligator Trapper like Julie Harter.

Harter is one of the first female trappers in the state and remains the only one in Hillsborough County.

Recently, a 10 ft. two in. gator made its way onto a playground near a busy intersection that lets out school children in River Hills. Harter was called by River Hills’ Property Manager to trap and take away the large reptile.

Capt. Maddie Lattarulo, Site Supervisor for Security at River Hills said, “Julie is really good at what she does,”

Harter said of this particular gator, “He was easy to trap because he was on land, but I still had to let him burn (energy) because you never know what a gator will do.”

Harter has been trapping alligators for 18 years. She learned the skill from her husband, Billy Harter. She was his agent for many years, and when he passed away in a tragic helicopter accident, the State offered her the job in 2003. “What I do allows the public to be safe and able to enjoy the outdoors.”

Harter said that sometimes people cannot believe that she, a female and a grandmother, could trap a large gator. Harter has a good sense of humor and a very calm demeanor. “Most callers are women, and they are looking to me to validate the decision that they made to have the alligator removed.”

Harter has been busy. She gets between 400 and 500 calls per year. Her advice to the public is simple: be cautious around bodies of waters such as ponds and never feed alligators.

If you are faced with an alligator that you think is potentially dangerous, call Nuisance Alligator Program (SNAP) at 1-866-FWC-GATOR.