How to catch alligator poachers? Become one.

Florida wildlife officer Jeff Babauta was nearing retirement when he went undercover to infiltrate the world of alligator poachers in the Everglades. He changed his name, adopted a freewheeling persona, and started an alligator farm on a rundown property in south Florida. 

The story of Babauta and Operation Alligator Thief is the subject of “Gator Country: Deception, Danger, and Alligators in the Everglades,” Rebecca Renner’s engrossing account of a two-year sting mounted by the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission in 2015. Babauta’s efforts led to the arrest of 11 poachers in a single day, one of the biggest hauls in the agency’s history. 

The book’s author, a Florida native, leads the reader through the complexities of Operation Alligator Thief as well as the intriguing, often murky, biological and cultural environment of the Everglades. She has a gift for storytelling and enriches her narrative with a wealth of Florida history, local lore, nature writing, and personal anecdotes. 

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