PORT ST. JOHN, Fla. — A woman was recovering in a hospital Sunday after being attacked by an 8-foot alligator near Fay Lake Wilderness Park in Brevard County the day before.
- Witness: Woman was swimming in pond when gator bit her
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- FWC: Trapper captured 8-foot, 6-inch alligator in the area
- Get more alligator coverage
- FWC gives tips on how to avoid alligators ▼
The attack happened in the afternoon, in a pond in a rural area near the divergence of State Road 407 and State Road 528.
Witnesses told investigators that the woman, identified by Florida wildlife officials as Nichole A. Tillman, 26, of Melbourne was swimming in a pond when the gator bit her.
The woman was airlifted to Holmes Regional Medical Center for treatment. Her wounds are not thought to be life-threatening.
A witness told Spectrum News 13 that the woman was screaming and struggling to swim when several people went to her rescue.
Their quick action is thought to have saved the woman's life.
"We pulled her out, and her side and her thigh was open. People grabbed towels and shirts and wrapped her side and leg and rushed her up her to the front," Dave Nygard said. "… About 30 seconds later, I see a gator head pop up, all of about 8 feet."
The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission said Sunday that an alligator trapper removed an 8-foot, 6-inch gator from the area.
The attack comes during the middle of alligator mating season, when male gators can be more territorial and aggressive.
It's also a very hot Memorial Day weekend, when many people are getting outside and hanging around water.
Mark McHugh, president and CEO of Gatorland, says that although alligators are normally afraid of humans, everyone should be on guard when going swimming, especially when taking pets with you.
"That pet is very active and noisy. It seems like prey for the alligators, so that will attract them," McHugh said.
McHugh adds that lily pads in the water are another red flag; gators often hide under them. And if you do come across a gator at a lake or pond, experts say to keep a distance of at least 25 feet.
The FWC is investigating the incident.
Anyone with concerns is urged to call the FWC's Nuisance Alligator Hotline at 1-866-FWC-GATOR (866-392-4286). Get additional information about alligators from the FWC.