An East Naples man, 72-year-old Nile Duppstadt, is facing a felony charge for killing a small alligator that came in his yard. He says he read a book about problems with government interference and he got so angry that he shot the two and a half foot gator. Now there is a suggestion that he was afraid for his safety, which is not what he initially told FWC investigators.
Jeff Whichello, author of the book that fired up Mr. Duppstadt, “What Happened to Ochopee” is speaking out. He doesn’t think Mr. Duppstadt should be charged with felony for killing an animal that may have been threatening him, especially since they can be found everywhere. Now, it’s doubtful that such a small gator was endangering the life of a grown man, but there’s no doubt that it presented a hazard, especially if the neighbors had been feeding it and it lost its fear of humans. Ironically, if he had called FWC about the gator being a nuisance, they probably would have sent a licensed trapper to destroy it.
I agree that it is probably not necessary to charge a felony in this case. It’s not like he was profiteering, or that the animals are endangered. The felony statute was written to prevent poaching, probably back when alligators were critically endangered. However, alligator numbers have rebounded to the point that the state sanctions hunts: ironically season just started.
Nor do I think people should have an unfettered right to destroy an animal just because it is on their property. That kind of attitude is why alligators were so endangered in the first place. A balance needs to be struck regarding control, and in these cases, when a gator is a nuisance, the State will come out and remove it. And nobody is suggesting that if someone is in danger of bodily harm that they can’t protect themselves… but that doesn’t appear to be the case here.
I missed this last week, please keep me posted when gator news comes in. Crimcourts is still your headquarters for legal gator news! #onlyinflorida
UPDATE: Court records show Mr. Duppstadt was given Pretrial Diversion, a deferred prosecution program for first-time offenders that will keep the charges from being on his record.