The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission says that most alligator attacks happen between the hours of dusk and dawn. The FWC says that most gators are afraid of humans and seldom bite them. A very large alligator broke both those rules on Friday as a woman waded in the Econlockhatchee River in broad daylight.
The woman, identified only as being “in her 40s,” received a gator bite to her left arm at approximately 2:30 p.m. on July 8, 2016, according to News13 in Orlando. How she managed to extricate her arm from the nearly 11-foot-long alligator’s jaws was not explained. Although not life-threatening, the alligator bite to her arm was serious enough to require transport to and treatment at Central Florida Regional Hospital in Sanford. Fish and Wildlife officers responding to the incident shot and killed a large alligator found nearby, but it has not been confirmed whether it was the same gator that made the mid-afternoon attack.
Alligator attacks are nothing new in the Sunshine State. Friday’s alligator attack occurred in the same area of the Little Big Econ State Forest where a teenage boy was severely injured by an alligator three years ago, reports WFTV in Orlando. In 2013, alligator bite victim Andrew Hudson of Winter Springs, Florida, told Channel 9 the following.
“He came up behind me and clamped. When he took me under, I felt him kind of right here, the soft part of his belly, and I started swinging and he let go.”
Doctors used 19 stitches and a dozen staples to close the wounds left by the alligator that attacked Hudson, who was lucky to survive the ferocious reptile assault. Not everyone has been so fortunate.
Less than one year ago, Orlando resident Rachael Lilienthal lost her arm and her bathing suit to a sizeable alligator while wading in the Wekiva River. A caller told 911 dispatchers the gator “completely bit her arm off.” Lilienthal’s boyfriend beat the gator with an oar, as Josh Helwig helped the injured woman out of the bloody water and into his canoe, reported News13.
Just after midnight on August 9, 2015, officers from Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission captured a gator matching the description of the reptile that attacked Rachael Lilienthal the day before. The animal, which was eight-feet, nine-inches in length and weighed 300-350 pounds, was trapped and euthanized. A postmortem examination of its stomach contents revealed that it was indeed the alligator that took Ms. Lilienthal’s arm.
In July, 2010, another alligator bit off the hand of a teenager in Naples. News13 said that 18-year-old Tim Delano lost his hand when he slipped and fell into a canal where a gator was lurking. Instead of calling 911, Delano called his mom. She told reporters the following.
“He (her son) started beating and punching it (the alligator) and I guess he punched him enough and it broke loose. It took his hand off and he went one way and the gator went the other. He called me and said ‘Mommy, a gator bit my hand off, I’m on the way to the hospital.'”
Friday’s gator attack comes just a few weeks after a toddler was snatched while playing on a beach at a Walt Disney World resort. Despite heroic effort by his panicked father to free him from the gator’s grip, 2-year old Lane Graves was pulled into the murky lagoon where he drowned. The child’s body was recovered from the water at Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort and Spa the next day, according to the New York Times.
How to avoid alligator attack
Florida Beach Lifestyle says to assume that every lake and canal in Florida contains alligators. For this reason, one should stay away from all fresh and brackish water, especially from sunset to sunrise when gators go prowling for food. In the event that you are bitten by an alligator, your best bet is to poke it in the eyes, shove a finger up its nose and beat it around the snout as ferociously as you can.
Ricky L. Langley, of the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services, offers additional information about adverse encounters between humans and alligators.
“Alligators are not generally aggressive toward humans, but aberrant behavior may occur. Smaller alligators usually bite only once; however, up to one third of attacks may involve repeated bites. Serious and repeated attacks usually are made by alligators over 8 feet in length and are probably attributed to chase and feeding behavior. Female alligators will defend their nest and young. Alligators quickly become conditioned to people, especially when food is involved. These food-habituated alligators lose their fear of humans and can be very dangerous to an unsuspecting person.”
If you see a gator over four-feet in length, or one that is menacing humans or pets, keep your distance and dial 1-866-FWC-GATOR without delay.
[Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images]