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Series of alligator attacks in Florida reminder that 'they're around us all the time'

Dr. David Rubay says he's already operated on 3 people attacked by gators this year
An alligator swims at the Everglades National Park, Fla., April 23, 2012.
Posted at 11:56 PM, May 17, 2024

WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. — It's alligator mating season and rescue crews and hospitals have been busy responding and treating alligator injuries.

A farmworker in Palm City was bitten in the leg by a 9-foot gator Wednesday.

Last Sunday, a baby gator was spotted lounging in a Palm Beach Gardens fountain.

And last week a dog named Brady was attacked and had his leg amputated from an apparent gator bite near Lake Worth Beach.

Brady, dog whose leg amputated after alligator attack

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"Keep a safe distance to keep yourself safe living alongside these animals," Kelly Fad, the general curator at Palm Beach Zoo, said.

She said right now it's gator mating season, which lasts from May through June, and causes the reptiles to be much more active.

"Those moms are taking care of those babies. The males are taking care of their ponds, and they are going to be protective," Fad said. "Animals aren't mean. Animals are just trying to do what they can to survive."

Kelly Fad discusses with WPTV reporter Joel Lopez the behavior of alligators during mating season.
Kelly Fad discusses with WPTV reporter Joel Lopez the behavior of alligators during mating season.

She said the Palm Beach Zoo has two American alligators and one white one.

According to Fad, alligators were near extinction until conservation efforts took place.

The Florida Fish and Wildlife and Conservation Commission (FWC) reports that the gator population in Florida is 1.3 million strong.

"They're around us all the time, and we don't know it," Fad said, "so just be a bit more aware."

According to the FWC, over the last 10 years, Florida has averaged eight unprovoked bites per year that are serious enough to require medical attention.

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Farmworker thankful alligator 'finally let go' of leg after attack

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At HCA Florida Lawnwood Hospital in Fort Pierce, Dr. David Rubay said he's already had to operate on three people from gator attacks this year alone.

"One of them was trying to get the dog or free his dog from the alligator. One of them was swimming in shallow water and all of a sudden the alligator bit his foot," Rubay said. "The most severe one ended up with amputation from part of the hand due to the degree of destruction of tissue."

Rubay said gators have long teeth that penetrate the flesh.

He said the wounds from the teeth are often small but go deep making it difficult to treat.

Dr. David Rubay outlines the challenges of treating wounds from alligator bites.
Dr. David Rubay outlines the challenges of treating wounds from alligator bites.

"One of the most important things of the bites of the alligator is that we consider them infected, and they are typically very dirty because the alligator lives in ponds and water," Rubay said. "Their mouth and teeth are infested with certain types of bacteria that get introduced to the wound, and it can become very difficult to treat with regular antibiotics."

He recommends not to walk too close to the edge of ponds, lakes or canals, especially when it gets dark.

Rubay also said to be careful walking your pets because it's a good target for the alligator to attack.