LEESBURG, Fla. (TheBlaze/AP) — Authorities say an alligator ripped off an elderly woman’s arm in a Florida canal.
Joy Hill, a spokeswoman with the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, says the woman was in critical condition.
The Lake County Sheriff’s Office identified the victim as 84-year-old Carol Hough of Leesburg.
Hough’s neighbor, Delmas Zickefoose, told the Orlando Sentinel that he saw Hough flailing in the 4-foot-deep canal that runs behind their mobile homes.
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No one knows why Hough was in the water or how long she had been in there before Zickefoose saw her. But several large gators regularly swim near their homes at Cypress Creek Mobile Home Park, which sits between lakes Harris and Denham off U.S. Highway 27.
Other neighbors said Hough had a history of being disoriented and might suffer from dementia. She had moved to Florida from Maine after her husband died. She asked for her late husband, Bob, after Zickefoose found her in the water at daybreak, around 7 a.m.
After rescuing her, he brought her to a sandy shoreline near his house, wrapping his arms around her tiny frame. Hough was calm and alert, despite the loss of her arm, and only her single utterance, “gator,” offered any clue as to what had happened.
“She was not upset, not screaming, as I held her,” he said. She said little, other than asking for her late husband.
The alligator will be killed so authorities can perform a necropsy, which is common procedure to make sure the animal won’t attack again.
And the attacks aren’t uncommon: a teenager lost part of his arm to a gator in July, and an airboat captain lost a hand while feeding one in June.
“It’s against the law, and it’s a very bad idea to feed a gator,” said Lt. Joy Hill, a spokeswoman for the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission. “If an alligator gets used to being fed, they become less afraid of humans.”
To listen to the 911 call, click here.