LAKELAND, Fla. — A resident of Florida Presbyterian Homes in Lakeland made a grisly discovery Tuesday afternoon, sparking a mystery that Lakeland Police are now trying to unravel.
It seems the unnamed resident called 911 after spotting an alligator with what appeared to be a human body in its mouth. When police arrived on the scene, they confirmed what the resident saw and began the process of trying to recover the person.
Police were able to get the body away from the alligator, but they do not know the deceased’s identity yet. “(We) think it’s a male,” said Sgt. Gary Gross, adding that it appeared as if the person has been dead for a day or more.
It is unclear at this time if the alligator is responsible for the person’s death or if the person died of other causes and the gator moved in for an opportunistic meal.
The cause of death will be determined by the Polk County Medical Examiner’s Office, Gross said. The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission will also be called out to capture the gator to aid in the investigation, police said.
This is the second time in recent weeks a Lakeland alligator has been involved in a rather grisly case. In May, a 21-year-old man had part of his left arm bitten off by a gator. The man jumped into a lake while trying to avoid police who were searching for him at his mother’s request.
At some point, the man dove into the lake and swam across, Gross told Patch in May. Fortunately, a Polk County Sheriff’s helicopter spotted him when he came out of the water, enabling immediate life-saving action.
“Three quarters of his left arm (was) bitten off by an alligator,” Gross said. “It probably just happened and the officers luckily saw him.”
The fast sighting, Gross said, probably “saved his life.”
Despite the state’s bustling alligator population, serious attacks and fatalities are not common in Florida. Between 1948 and 2013, there were 22 fatalities recorded, according to FWC records. During that period, a total of 122 minor bites and 235 major bites were also logged. The last fatal alligator attack on record prior to this year occurred in 2007.
Alligator-related human fatalities might not be common, but encounters with the creatures are. Those encounters add up to so many over the course of any given year that the state has set up its own hotline to accept nuisance alligator calls. That number is 1-866-FWC-GATOR (866-392-4286).
In 2013 alone, the state fielded 15,036 nuisance alligator calls, which resulted in the removal of 6,605 creatures.
— Sgt. Gary B Gross (@GaryBGross) June 7, 2016