Florida alligator

Fatal alligator attacks in Florida and what you should know

The body of a 2-year-old Nebraska boy was found Wednesday he was snatched by an alligator at a lake in Walt Disney World. He’s one of 16 people killed in alligator attacks in Florida since 1997.

Here are the other 15 fatal alligator attacks.

Nov. 23, 2015: Brevard County deputies determined that Matthew Riggins, 22, was killed by an alligator in a Barefoot Bay lake while possibly hiding to avoid law enforcement. Divers recovered his body with injuries consistent with an alligator attack nine days after he was reported missing by his girlfriend, who said he told her he was going to commit burglaries. A nearby alligator behaved aggressively toward divers, and was trapped and euthanized.

  • 19, 2015: The body of 62-year-old James Okkerse was found floating in Blue Springs State Park in central Florida with injuries consistent with an alligator attack. A 12-foot alligator had been spotted in the lake twice the day before, forcing the park to close temporarily each time. Authorities shot the alligator. Friends said Okkerse swam there every day.
  • 8, 2007: A man who jumped into a lake to flee police at the Miccosukee Resort and Convention Center was killed by an alligator more than 9 feet long. Divers found the body of Justo Antonio Padron, 36, the next afternoon, with alligator teeth marks on the torso. The alligator believed to be responsible was killed.
  • May 14, 2006: Near Lake George in the Ocala National Forest, the body of 23-year-old Annemarie Campbell was found sticking out of an alligator’s mouth by her friends, who beat the reptile until it released her. Campbell was a Tennessee visitor snorkeling in a secluded recreation area. The 11-foot-4-inch, 407-pound alligator was euthanized.
  • May 13, 2006: The body of Judy W. Cooper, 43, was found in a canal 20 miles north of St. Petersburg. Trappers caught and killed an 8-1/2-foot alligator that had her body parts in its belly.
  • May 10, 2006: The dismembered body of Yovy Suarez-Jimenez, 28, was found by construction workers in a canal in Broward County. She had toxic levels of alcohol and an anti-depression drug in her body. Authorities believed she was attacked on land and dragged.
  • July 15, 2005: An alligator more than 12 feet long grabbed 41-year-old Kevin Murray by the arm as he swam in Apollo Waterway and pulled him underwater as neighbors watched. A trapper killed the alligator.
  • March 11, 2005: Donald Ray Owen, 56, was found dead in Six Pound Pond near Lakeland in Polk County with alligator bites and an arm amputated below the elbow. The 9-foot-8-inch male alligator was caught and killed.
  • 26, 2004: Georgia college student Michelle Reeves, 20, drowned after part of her arm was bitten off in an alligator attack that occurred while she apparently went skinny-dipping in a Fort Myers lake. An alligator was trapped and removed from the area.
  • July 23, 2004: Landscaper Janie Melsek, 54, died from a severe infection two days after she was mauled by a 12-foot, 457-pound alligator on Sanibel Island. The alligator dragged her into a pond, tearing at her arm so severely that part of it was later amputated. Rescuers saved her from the reptile’s jaws in a tug-of-war.
  • June 18, 2003: A 12-year-old boy was mauled by an alligator while swimming at Palm Gardens Marina, about 35 miles northwest of Orlando. Bryan Griffin was pulled under after friends repeatedly warned him to exit the water. Trappers later killed 10 alligators in the Dead River, including one they decided was responsible.
  • 11, 2001, 82-year-old Robert Steele had his leg severed and bled to death when he was attacked by a 10-foot alligator while walking his dog by a Sanibel Island canal. The alligator, found with the leg in his mouth, was killed.
  • June 23, 2001: A 2-year-old girl wandered from her Winter Haven backyard to a lake and was killed by a 6 ½-foot alligator. The body of Alexandria Murphy was found near the shoreline of Lake Cannon in Winter Haven an hour after her family reported her missing. A trapper killed the alligator suspected.
  • May 4, 2001: The chewed body of 70-year-old Samuel Wetmore was found floating in a Sarasota County retention pond with an 8-foot alligator circling nearby. Wetmore suffered from dementia and was believed to have wandered away from home.
  • March 22, 1997: An 11-foot alligator was discovered swimming protectively near the body of 3-year-old Adam Binford in a lake in Volusia County, a mile from where he’d disappeared the day before. His mother said he’d been standing in knee-deep water picking water lilies for her. She heard a splash and when she turned around her son was gone. The 450-pound alligator was killed.

Things to know about alligators in Florida

The frequency of serious, unprovoked alligator bites has grown in Florida along with the state’s population — but fatal alligator attacks remain rare. Some things to know about alligators from the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission:


More than a million alligators live throughout Florida, though the species remains listed as an endangered species because it closely resembles the endangered American crocodile.


Alligators can be found in fresh and brackish bodies of water — including lakes, rivers, canals and golf course ponds — and there’s an estimated 6.7 million acres of suitable habitat statewide. Alligator bites are most likely to occur in or around water, as gators aren’t well-equipped to capture prey on dry land.


Alligators are opportunistic feeders that will eat what is readily available and easily overpowered. It’s illegal to feed wild alligators because that causes them to lose their fear of humans. While gators can lunge at prey along a shoreline, there’s no evidence of alligator attacks in which the reptiles went after people or other animals on land.


Hides, meat and other parts can be sold from legally harvested alligators. In 2014, the hides and meat from harvested gators was worth $6.8 million.


There have been 23 fatalities caused by wild alligator attacks in Florida since 1973, among 383 unprovoked bites not caused by someone handling or intentionally harassing an alligator. Florida averages about seven serious unprovoked bites a year, and officials put the odds of someone being seriously injured by an unprovoked alligator in Florida at roughly one in 2.4 million.


Most of the eight children and 15 adult victims of alligator attacks have been in freshwater bodies of water.

Sources: The Associated Press, except for the March 11, 2005, item from Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission


1 comment

  1. Someguy 18 June, 2016 at 14:09 Reply

    Your statement that gators are not equipped to attack out of water is just wromg. You have left off the gigantic number of pets taken and eaten by gators in Florida. Not a small number of them dogs on leash being outrum by a land attacking gator.

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