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Gator's Paws for Lunch Turns Hounds to Hors d'Oeuvres

August 29, 1995| From Associated Press

PENSACOLA, Fla. — Rufus Godwin learned the fate of his missing hunting dog Flojo when a 500-pound alligator coughed up the animal's electronic tracking collar.

Then, when trappers slit open its belly, they found the tags and collars of six more hunting hounds.

For the past 20 years, hunting dogs have been disappearing in the Blackwater River State Forest. Their owners, members of the Blackwater River and Santa Rosa fox hunting associations, thought people were stealing them.

But the gator had turned a game trail into his private diner, grabbing dogs as they ran across Coldwater Creek in pursuit of game. Their barking was a dinner bell.

Godwin had set Flojo, a $5,000 Walker fox-hunting hound, loose in the forest about 45 miles northeast of Pensacola. The last he heard of her was her bark as she chased an animal, probably a deer.

Four days later, he was using the tracking device for her electronic collar to search for her when he caught a faint signal.

Jamie Sauls was with Godwin. He, too, received signals from a collar worn by a dog he lost weeks earlier. They also got a response from a third collar that had been on a friend's dog.

"When we walked up to this hole, just all of a sudden the boxes went to beeping out of sight. They just went wide open," Godwin said Monday from his home in Chumuckla. "So we knew then we were dealing with a gator."

The 10-foot, 11-inch reptile was captured Aug. 15 by state-contracted gator hunters.

Four men harpooned the beast, taped its mouth shut and wrestled it until they had it hogtied. In the struggle the gator spit up Flojo's $125 tracking collar.

The gator's home was a frightening quarter-mile from a popular swimming hole on the Blackwater River. If not for the steady diet of dogs, the gator might have tried to lunch on children, Godwin said.

"As long as we kept carrying him $5,000 dogs, he was eating good," Godwin said.

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