Florida is home to over a million alligators but attacks are rare. In fact the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission estimates residents have a one in 3.2 million chance of an attack. But one Palm Beach County woman is sharing her tale of chance and recovery.
The Arthur R. Marshall Loxahatchee National Wildlife Refuge is a popular place for visitors providing 144,000 acres of land, water, alligators and occasional researchers like Kelsey Pollack.
"It’s a small replication of the Everglades,” said Pollack, an environmental technician for South Florida Water Management District. “It’s a park that’s kind of considered our test site.”
It was during her 15th visit on Sept. 5 that Pollack says she bumped into a gator.
“I yelled and then I literally tried to get up out of the water,” said Pollack. “I literally climbed a tree that was next to me.”
Pollack said the approximately 5-foot gator bit her leg – before she could climb the tree to safety. But she also had to think about the gash in her leg. Her previous experience as a lifeguard kicked in. She used her shirt as a tourniquet.
”I thought - I also don’t want an infection so I took my shirt and tied it up around my leg,” she said.
Pollack eventually got professional aid and went back to work within days but she encourages all Floridians who work or play outdoors to think about how they’ll handle their chance encounter with a gator. And first aid response.
”The knowledge of knowing how to do it and when to do it,” she said. “If you’re outside enough it’s bound to happen whether you’re a fisherman or a surfer.”
FWC says the gator that bitPollack was not removed from the refuge. They also encourage the public if you have concerns about a nuisance gator to call the Nuisance Alligator Hotline at 866-FWC-GATOR (866-392-4286) or visit https://myfwc.com/wildlifehabitats/wildlife/alligator/snap/