An 8-foot-6-inch long alligator attacked Nichole A. Tillman as she was swimming at the Key Lake Wilderness Park in Cocoa, Florida, on Saturday, May 25.
The animal attack left 26-year-old Tillman with serious injuries, but after getting airlifted to a local hospital, she is now on the road to recovery.
The Alligator Attack
Dave Nygard, an eyewitness who was in the lake with Tillman, told ABC News that a crowd of around a dozen people were swimming waist to chest deep in the water when a girl started screaming. A couple of men responded quickly and grabbed her, he recalled.
"I thought she was more or less joking around ... next thing you know we pull her out and her side and her thigh were open," Nygard continued. "So then about 30 seconds later I see a gator head pop up. It was every bit of 8 foot."
Tillman was driven out of the woods on an all-terrain vehicle and then flown to the Holmes Regional Medical Center in Melbourne via a medical helicopter.
A spokesperson for the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission said that Tillman had significant bite wounds on the leg and flank but described the injuries as non-life-threatening.
The alligator that attacked her has been removed from the pond.
Beware Of Alligators
Alligators are plentiful in Florida, occupying the state's marshes, swamps, rivers, and lakes for centuries, according to FWC. With Florida's human population expanding in recent decades — and even building homes near the water — interactions between humans and alligators are bound to become more frequent as well.
However, officials say that attacks remain rare in the area. Brevard County Fire district chief Thomas Uzel told ABC News that this attack is only the second alligator bite recorded in about 35 years.
It's important to be cautious, though. FWC warns locals never to feed an alligator as well as to keep a safe distance away during encounters. Swimming should be limited to designated areas with pets kept on a leash and away from the water where gators can easily snatch them up.
American crocodiles, which are known to be a threatened species, are more seldom seen, but they're still primarily found in south Florida. With the positive boost in their population, the crocodile complaints have also increased in the state.
FWC encourages residents to call the Nuisance Alligator Hotline at 866-FWC-GATOR for any alligator concerns.