WARNING: The remainder of this article contains content that may be disturbing to some readers.
Back in June, as WTSP-TV reported at the time, workers at the Mosaic Company, a mining company near Ft. Meade, about 60 miles east of Tampa, noticed an alligator in a nearby canal with what appeared to be human remains in its jaws. Workers called police, but by the time they arrived, the 12-foot-long, 450-pound beast had lost interest in the human body and swam away.
Authorities trapped the animal and then shot and killed it. Inside they found the man’s hand and foot. Elsewhere on the man’s body, they found lacerations and other injuries caused by the gator.
The man was identified as 45-year-old Michael Ford II. He was not an employee of the Mosaic Company, and indeed, how or why he was on the company’s property remains unclear.
Authorities believed at the time that Ford’s cause of death was drowning.
However, this week the Medical Examiner’s Office for Polk, Hardee, and Highlands Counties released the results of its autopsy, which concluded that Ford’s cause of death was “methamphetamine intoxication.” The alligator attack appears to have happened after Ford had already died.
Alligator attacks on humans are exceptionally rare, and rarer still are such attacks fatal, according to a July Business Insider report. Indeed, since 1973 there have only been 24 fatal alligator attacks on humans in Florida. Dogs and even cows kill far more humans annually than alligators.
The reptiles, though fiercely territorial, will generally shy away from humans, preferring their natural diet of fish and turtles, and will sometimes eat pets that get too close. In fact, the best way to get on the bad side of a gator is to get too close to a female’s nest.
A wildlife expert says that, in the extremely unlikely event that a gator has designs on you, your best bet is to run. Though they can reach speeds of about 11 mph, they can’t sustain it for long, so a human could easily outrun the animal. If one does catch you in its jaws, fight back, going for the snout and eyes in particular. With any luck, the gator will decide that you’re not worth it and will let go and run or swim away.