A Florida man was attacked by a nine-foot, 300-pound alligator on Tuesday night, sustaining injuries to his right leg, according to the local sheriff's department. The Sumter County Sheriff's Office notified the public in a Facebook post that the man was airlifted out of the area to a nearby hospital, and authorities have not yet updated his condition. The attack occurred in Bushnell, Florida, just one hour west of the Walt Disney World Resort, where a two-year-old boy was killed by an alligator last week while wading in an off-limits lake.
In both cases, authorities retaliated against the local gator population in an attempt to determine which animal committed the attack. The killings of five gators at Disney sparked outrage from PETA, which criticized the euthanizations. "Although the instances of this sort of attack happening are rare, it is not news that alligators are predators and you would hope that people would be made more aware of the risk they are taking by being near the water," said PETA spokesperson Claire Fryer in a statement.
According to ABC News, in response to the incident, Disney has already added additional signage warning of alligators and snakes since the attack. However, the killing of the alligators is still a bone of contention for the animal activists, and according to PETA, an ineffective solution to a systemic problem. "It is well known that killing individual animals isn't going to help and it will have negative impacts on the ecosystem," said Fryer in the statement. "If you remove the alligators more are going to come in from other areas and take their place."
Florida has about 1.3 million alligators. They are opportunistic feeders which frequently grow up to 10 feet in length. In 2015, there were nine major alligator attacks in the state, including the death of 61-year-old swimmer James Okkerse. Gators hang out in nearly all natural bodies of water in Florida, so if you're planning a summer getaway to the Sunshine State, it's safest to swim in pools.
More information should be released about the man's condition soon, as well as more specific details about the attack. Going forward, the dispute about how to limit alligator attacks in high-traffic areas will be a major issue for wildlife conservationists. The most important factor in avoiding attacks is education, so make sure you're aware of how to avoid an alligator attack if you're in Florida this summer.