He had three years experience trapping and harvesting alligators for the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) and had even trapped a few 11-footers. But that still did not prepare Lane Stephens for his latest catch.
He was called to a home on Lake Talquin to take care of an alligator that had come onto someone's property. Living in Florida, this was a routine call for trapper. Or so he thought.
“I didn’t know it was as large as it was,” he told Tallahasse.com. “I knew it was an extremely large gator because the complainant had told me it was an extremely large alligator (that had come onto her property)."
Using what he described as "techniques not available to the general public", Stephens hooked a 14-foot mammoth. Its only rival is the longest gator ever caught in Florida, a male at 14ft 3 ½-inches at Lake Washington in Brevard County.
"I didn’t know exactly how big until we got him back to the boat landing and started trying to load him in my truck.” He added with a laugh, “Nobody is going to load a gator that size into their boat.”
Regional spokesperson for the FWC, Stephen Kirkland, also spoke with Tallahasse.com and advised Florida's alligator population is near "1.3 million" and "about 20,000 gators are harvested in Florida each year. Gators are allowed to be hunted by the public from Aug. 15 until Nov. 1," he said.
It's FWC policy to use the larger catches for meat, hide or skulls because there's nowhere to relocate any gator over 4ft. when larger ones are found.
The 14-footer captured by Stephens set a state record for largest gator head with a skull measuring 23.75 inches long.
When asked what someone should do if they ever come across an alligator of this size, Kirkland replied, "Hopefully you're in a boat if you see a gator like that. I mean you don't want to swim in a place that has large gators. That's just inviting trouble."