SEMINOLE COUNTY, Fla. — An alligator attacked an off-duty Tavares lieutenant firefighter/paramedic while he was hunting gators with two friends Thursday on Lake Jesup in Seminole County, causing severe injuries to his right arm, according to records released Friday.

What You Need To Know

  • Deputies responded to report of seriously-injured alligator hunter

  • Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission investigating

  • Seminole County’s Lake Jesup home to thousands of alligators

Carsten Kieffer, 41, was rushed to Orlando Regional Medical Center, according to a Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission report. His condition was unknown.

Kieffer and his two companions were property licensed and permitted to hunt alligators through the statewide recreational alligator harvest, the FWC said. They were in a 19-foot motorboat when they found a large gator just after 5 p.m.

They hooked it and pulled the gator alongside the boat in shallow water.

"While the men were positioning the vessel and working the lines attached to the animal, the alligator jumped partially out of the water headfirst and bit the victim on the right arm," the FWC report said.

"The victim was standing upright in the vessel at the time, with his arm approximately three feet above water level," the report added. "The alligator rolled briefly, causing further injury to the right arm, then released the arm and returned to the water."

His friends called 911 for help.

Deputies with the Seminole County Sheriff’s Office responded to a report of “a seriously-injured alligator hunter,” said Bob Kealing, a spokesman for the agency.

“We turned over the case to FWC,” he said in an email to Spectrum News.

The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission says it sent an alligator trapper to the area. It confirmed a man was being treated at ORMC for an "alligator bite incident."

"The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission received a report yesterday afternoon that an adult male participating in the Statewide Alligator Harvest was bitten while capturing an alligator at Lake Jesup, Chad Weber, a spokesman for FWC, said in a statement Friday. "The individual was transported to the hospital for treatment of his injuries."

Weber said FWC, Seminole County Sheriff’s Office and fire and rescue responded.

"In addition, a contracted nuisance alligator trapper was dispatched," Weber added. "The FWC is currently investigating the incident and will provide updates when available."

The agency regulates an alligator hunting season that runs from August 15 to November 1.

It is a popular program that allows a limited number of participants to pay for a license to kill up to two gators in a specific geographic region during a designated time frame.

The agency says roughly 15,000 apply. Only 7,000 permits are issued.

Florida residents pay $272 for each permit. Out-of-state residents pay $1,022.

The hunting program, launched in 1988, is only one part of the state's larger strategy to manage alligators in Florida.

"The purpose of reinstating alligator hunting was to provide the public with a much-desired opportunity to hunt alligators in Florida," the FWC says online.

Florida’s alligator population is estimated at 1.3 million.

Seminole County’s Lake Jesup, spanning roughly 8,057 acres, is home to thousands of them.

FWC also contracts with trappers all year long to remove nuisance alligators.

The trappers are compensated when they sell the hide and meat of nuisance alligators.

Last year, FWC’s Statewide Nuisance Alligator Program received 14,072 nuisance alligator complaints. Those reports resulted in the removal of 8,972 nuisance alligators.

“Generally, an alligator may be considered a nuisance if it's at least 4 feet in length and believed to pose a threat to people, pets or property,” the FWC says online. “If you’re concerned about an alligator, call the Nuisance Alligator Hotline at 866-FWC-GATOR (866-392-4286), and we will dispatch a contracted nuisance alligator trapper to resolve the situation.”

FWC says alligators rarely attack people for no reason. In May 2019, a woman swimming in a pond in Brevard County was attacked by an 8-foot alligator. 

She was hospitalized with non-life-threatening injuries. The gator was trapped and removed.

“Over the last 10 years, Florida has averaged 7 unprovoked bites per year that are serious enough to require professional medical treatment,” FWC said. “From 1948 to 2019, 413 unprovoked bite incidents have occurred in Florida. Twenty-five of these bites resulted in human fatalities.”