Man dies after being bitten by alligator as he looked for frisbees in Florida lake

‘It appears that he went in before the park opened, unfortunately not a good time to be in any lake, but especially during alligator mating season’

Related video: Experts have warning for disc golfers during alligator nesting season

A man’s body was found with an arm ripped off at a lake in a Florida public park serving as an alligator habitat.

The 47-year-old man had been gathering frisbees which had ended up in the lake after being used by players on an adjoining disc golf course.

The death is the first fatal attack by an alligator in Florida since 2019. The man’s remains were found on Tuesday at the lake spanning 53 acres in John S Taylor Park in Largo, west of Tampa on Florida’s western coast.

A spokesperson for the Largo Police Department said the agency believed “a gator was involved” in the death.

A Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission spokesperson only said the victim was a 47-year-old man.

The director of Parks and Conservation Resources in Pinellas County, Paul Cozzie, told The New York Times that the man was a “transient” who sold frisbees to people playing disc golf on the abutting course.

“He died as a result of an alligator attack,” Mr Cozzie said.

“It appears that he went in before the park opened, unfortunately not a good time to be in any lake, but especially during alligator mating season,” he added.

He said it was “a mistake that appears to have cost him his life”.

Mr Cozzie said someone saw the body with one of the arms removed on the lake bank at around 8am.

An alligator swims in Taylor Lake near the scene where a man was found dead after going into the water to retrieve lost disc golf discs at John S. Taylor Park, Tuesday, May 31, 2022 in Largo, Fla

A state-contracted alligator trapper walks near the area where a man was found dead after going into the water to retrieve lost disc golf discs at John S. Taylor Park, Tuesday, May 31, 2022 in Largo, Fla

Park Rangers encountered the man trying to enter the waters in April, and they informed him that he would be banned from the area if he tried to do so again, according to Mr Cozzie.

He added that disc golfers in the area don’t use cheaper discs found in supermarkets but use frisbees designed for specific types of throws, meaning that their equipment is of higher value than regular discs.

The man whose body was discovered on Tuesday wasn’t the first one to have been attacked while trying to recover discs to sell. A couple of years ago, a man was bitten in the face by an alligator in the same lake but managed to live to tell the tale.

An alligator warning sign is posted in waters near the scene where a man was found dead after going into the lake to retrieve lost disc golf discs at John S. Taylor Park, Tuesday, May 31, 2022 in Largo, Fla

A Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission officers stands by a lake in John S. Taylor Park, where a man was found dead Tuesday, May 31, 2022, in Largo, Fla

The lake is between six and eight feet deep, meaning that you have to “kick around on the bottom” to locate frisbees, according to Mr Cozzie. He said one of the holes on the disc golf course is between 25 and 50 feet from the water.

“Certainly, it might be wise for the disc golf group to look at relocating the hole,” he told The New York Times.

He said the lake was close to other bodies of water, adding that it’s “almost like a highway for alligators to move throughout the county”.

Mr Cozzie said there are signs telling people not to enter the water, something which even Park Rangers cannot do.

An alligator warning sign is posted in waters near the scene where a man was found dead after going into the lake to retrieve lost disc golf discs at John S. Taylor Park, Tuesday, May 31, 2022 in Largo, Fla

Alligator mating season takes place in May or June, during which time alligators become more aggressive and territorial, he told the paper. They’re most active at night – between dusk and dawn – according to the wildlife commission. The agency said an alligator trapper had been sent to the area after the discovery of the body “to remove a nearby alligator”.

Wildlife officials caught and euthanized an alligator later on Tuesday near the area where the body was found, WFLA reported. A necropsy found that it was the alligator that had attacked the man.

Mr Cozzie said alligators more often attack pets rather than people. Data from the wildlife commission show that there have been an average of eight “major” incidents of alligators biting people in Florida annually in the last decade. Four people have died.

In 2018, the remains of a 47-year-old woman who had been out with her dogs were found inside an alligator. In 2016, a two-year-old boy was taken by an alligator at a Disney resort.

According to the wildlife commission, around 1.3 million alligators exist in Florida and can be found in “practically all fresh and brackish water bodies”.

The commission states that alligators are “naturally afraid of humans” but that the illegal action of feeding them leads them to connect people with food.

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