DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. - A man was arrested after Florida Fish and Wildlife (FWC) said he hit an alligator with mower machinery used to cut grass and destroyed a nest of eggs.
Steven Dariff, 59, is currently out of jail on bond, facing charges of felony cruelty to animals and illegal killing, possessing, or capturing of alligators.
According to a report from FWC, a witness said he saw Dariff in the area of Tomoka Farms Road in Daytona Beach clearing brush with a large tractor with a mower attachment in June. A 6-foot gator apparently left the water and walked into the path of the tractor.
Dariff reportedly scared the gator away by hitting the water with the mower blades. The gator again came onto the bank and that's when the witness said Dariff turned the tractor around and drove back toward the alligator.
The witness said Dariff then dropped the mowing blades on top of the alligator, severely wounding it. The incident was captured on a cellphone video.
Officers said the alligator was located and it had severe lacerations to its head, eyes, back, legs and tail.
The gator was captured by FWC officers and humanely euthanized. Several broken eggshells from an alligator nest were also located at the scene, officers said.
Dariff explained to investigators that it was an accident. He reportedly told officers he was trying to scare the gator away when it lunged at the mower and was hit by the blades. He said he didn't realize he hit the alligator until he saw the exposed eggs.
Officers believe he intentionally struck the gator and destroyed the nest based on evidence at the scene. People we showed the video to had mixed reactions.
"I think that was wrong, to do that," said Susan Anderson.
"Pretty sad. Definitely, there’s a better solution than crushing it," Alex Bondarenko said. "They should just let the gator be in nature where it should be and get some help from Animal Control if it’s really a problem."
But Alan Anderson said, "It is a gator, I’m not that sad. That’s Florida. You’re in contact with nature everywhere."
Volusia County Animal Services Director Adam Leath said alligator attacks are rare in the area.
"We typically don’t get a lot of complaints, although it seems this last year we’ve had a few in Daytona Beach."
He recommends witnesses take cellphone videos like this if they see anything suspicious.
"I think it's important that people reach out to us," Leath added.
Dariff told FOX 35's Valerie Boey that the video isn't what you think it is. FOX 35 35 News reached out fo Dariff's attorney for comment but had not heard back before this article was published. Check back for updates.
Call FWC at 888-404-FWCC (3922) if you see an attack on an alligator.
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