A Florida snorkeler was bitten by a fully-grown alligator and left with serious wounds at a picturesque spring earlier this week.
The unnamed man was exploring the designated swim zone of the Alexander Springs Recreation Area on the Ocala National Forest when he was attacked by the adult gator on Monday, the US Forest Service (USFS) said in a statement.
The victim suffered puncture wounds and lacerations, and ultimately drove himself to seek medical attention, the USFS explained. Meanwhile, the permitted concessioner Adventure Ocala rendered temporary aid to the victim and cleared other guests from the swimming area, which was closed for public safety.
The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) eventually removed a 7 ½ foot “aggressive alligator” from the springs, the statement read.
“For the situation, for public safety and for my safety capturing it alone in a canoe, we ended up having to euthanize it. It just got a little hairy,” Joseph Vela told WCJB of the effort.
The Alexander Springs was also closed briefly last week, after a similar gator sighting at a nest near the swim area on July 10.“After a couple days, we ended up at the nest pulling out a five-to-six-foot alligator.
Ended up removing that alligator and monitored the situation, didn’t see any more other than three-to-four footers in the area,” Vela said of the earlier investigation.
The spring was subsequently reopened on July 14, just a couple days before the snorkeler was bitten.
July is alligator nesting season in Florida, which means gator mothers are especially territorial and alert, WKMG-TV noted.
Alligators are experts at camouflage, and are difficult to spot underwater even when the surface – like at Alexander Springs – is very clear, the outlet continued.
“Every body of water has a potential to have an alligator, especially the springs,” said Chad Weber of the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission.
“I mean, that’s kind of a misconception that just because the water’s cooler, they won’t be in there.“ We encourage people not to swim during early-morning hours or late at night when there’s, you know, where alligators are more active. And obviously, if you encounter an alligator in the wild, we strongly discourage people to approach them.”
Local resident Gabriel Simons, who was enjoying the spring with his friends when Monday’s attack took place, told WCJB that alligator attacks are “like a lightning strike.”
“You think it won’t strike you, you think you’ll be okay but I guess it can happen,” he explained.
Alexander Springs is one of only 27 first-magnitude springs in Florida, WKMG-TV said.
Even at the peak of Florida’s summer heat, it stays a refreshing 72 degrees.
The crystalline waters will remain off-limits to swimmers until the USFS concludes its investigation.