FWC Captain David Dipre is a guardian of natural resources – whether he’s apprehending a lobster poacher, protecting saltwater crocodiles or giving his 17-year-old daughter the keys to the car.
Growing up in middle class Pennsylvania, he enlisted in the US Army right out of high school, became a medic and was stationed at the Irwin Army Hospital at Fort Riley, Texas and the 97th General Hospital in Frankfurt, Germany. After his discharge he spent two more years in Europe running the USO Club, where he hosted steak-and-lobster galas for military brass.
He landed in the Keys in 1993 and took a job as a dispatcher with Florida Marine Patrol. Shortly after the formation of the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, he was deputized, and has spent the last two decades working all sorts of cases, from human trafficking and drug smuggling to hurricanes, theft and diving and boating accidents.
Dipre and his wife, Kim, live in Marathon with their daughter, who attends Marathon High School.
The FWC recently changed its position on crocodiles in the Keys. What prompted the change? Mostly the fear generated by the public. People don’t know and don’t understand the realities of the croc and when people are concerned they take drastic actions that could harm the crocodiles. Our main concern is to protect the saltwater crocodile species through education.
So what is the FWC’s protocol when a resident reports a saltwater croc in their neighborhood? FWC will educate the resident on the behaviors of crocs — assuring the resident the croc is more afraid of us than we are of it. In the rare instance when a croc needs to be removed, it’s trapped by a professional and taken to an area where the croc will be safe.
If the FWC has determined that the croc needs to be removed, what happens next? We will contact our trappers, who will assess the situation and determine whether it needs to be relocated. In the event we do need to move it, a trapper will humanely capture the reptile and move it to an area where it will not be attacked or killed by another croc.
What’s the difference between the saltwater crocodiles of the Florida Keys and the alligators of the Everglades? They are similar in many ways, especially in appearance. However the behavior of the croc is much more passive and docile than alligators. People should be more concerned about alligators than crocodiles.
Is it true that the Keys are being overrun with saltwater crocodiles and it’s no longer safe to swim in canals or let your kids into the yard unattended? Absolutely not. Saltwater crocs are territorial. You may have one or two in an area, but that is all because they don’t allow the area to be overrun. They are not like iguanas. It is safe to swim in the canals and, in relation to crocs …. fire ants, no-see-ums, and child abductions are more serious threats to your child than crocs.
If a resident finds a crocodile on their property, are they allowed to use force to remove the animal, or should they try luring it away with food?They are NOT allowed to use force and they are NOT allowed to lure it with food. It’s against the law and there could be state or federal charges that include fines and possible jail. They should call us — 866-FWC-GATOR (866-392-4286) — and allow us to take appropriate action.
If you spot a crocodile close to your pet or children what is the best course of action? Make a lot of noise. In 23 years I have never seen nor heard of a saltwater croc getting aggressive or assertive with a child.
Are residents allowed to legally hunt or trap saltwater crocodiles? No. Not in any way.
How many crocodile attacks are reported on an annual basis? I believe there are about two reported attacks against small pets.
What courses of action should residents take to protect their family and pets from crocodiles? Just stay with your pet if a crocodile is in the area. If you are with them, the crocs will most likely stay away. If you feel your pet is threatened, you can call FWC and we will investigate.
If you could have lunch with one person, dead or alive, who would it be and where would you go? Abe Lincoln at Burdines because of their fish sandwich and French fries. I guarantee Abe has never had a fish sandwich anywhere close to Burdines and their fries are the best. I would ask a lot of questions in terms of how to fix the race relations.
You boast an impressive collection of costumes. What is your favorite and what occasion requires you to wear it? A composer for Halloween. Folks mistook me for a drag queen, but I was actually a composer from the late 1800s.
You are the frontman, keyboardist and sing vocals for the cop rock band In Pursuit. What does the future hold for the band? Lollapalooza? We are looking at opening for the Rolling Stones at one of their upcoming shows. I know Mick has been trying to get ahold of me. We have spoken a number of times and I know it’s going to happen. He’s just old and forgetful.