77-Year-Old Florida Woman Attacked by Alligator

by Caitlin Berard

On Saturday (September 3), residents of the Del Webb retirement community in Lakewood Ranch, Florida, were enjoying a warm late summer evening when screams suddenly echoed through the neighborhood.

A group of residents rushed toward the sound, where they found a horrifying scene. Their 77-year-old neighbor was being attacked by an alligator, the colossal reptile stretching almost 8 feet in length.

The courageous group then yelled and ran at the alligator until it released her, retreating back into the water. At around 6 p.m., emergency services responded to the shocking call, transporting the woman to a nearby hospital where medical staff went to work treating her injuries.

The extent of the woman’s injuries remains unknown. Thankfully, however, she did escape the attack with her life.

Following the incident, a nuisance alligator trapper from the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission arrived on the scene. They removed the 7’10” reptile and euthanized it.

Justin Matthews, the owner of the local Matthews Wildlife Rescue, guessed that the alligator weighed around 300 pounds. Because of the gator’s size and incredible jaw power, the woman is lucky to be alive.

Unfortunately, the animal in question showed characteristics that led experts to believe someone had been feeding it. Feeding alligators and other wild animals make these attacks far more likely, which leads to otherwise unnecessary euthanizations.

“The way to tell if an alligator has been fed by a person is if you’re walking and see one out in the pond, move your arm in a throwing motion,” Matthews explained to ABC7. “If the gator starts moving toward you, it’s time to call the Florida Wildlife Commission.”

How Common are Alligator Attacks?

Residents on the scene couldn’t believe what they were seeing. An alligator attacking someone unprovoked? That simply doesn’t happen.

“I lived here five years and I’ve never seen a gator come after anybody like that,” local wildlife photographer Gordon Silver told FOX 35. “Usually, they run the other way, even when you see him on the path around here crossing over from pond to pond. They see a human and they take off.”

Though it makes attacks no less terrifying when they do happen, alligator attacks on humans are far from a common occurrence. “People getting killed by alligators is extremely rare,” alligator expert Adam Rosenblatt told Live Science.

The University of North Florida professor has studied the ancient predators for years with a focus on how they respond to changing environments. “A lot of human-alligator conflict occurs when alligators get provoked, both intentionally and unintentionally,” he said. “Or when alligators go after people’s pets.”

If it’s suffering from extreme hunger, an alligator might go after a human. Those situations, however, are even “rarer,” according to Rosenblatt.