MARTIN COUNTY — A man riding his bike at a park right off Interstate 95 in Martin County was attacked by an alligator Monday, according to sheriff’s officials who responded to the scene.
The unidentified man was airlifted to Lawnwood Reginal Medical Center & Heart Institute in Fort Pierce with “traumatic” injuries, said Fire Rescue official Shawn Lisowy.
The man was bitten at Halpatiokee Regional Park, off I-95, about 17 miles from the Palm Beach County border. Lisowy did not know where the man was bit or how long first responders remained at the scene, he said.
The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission officers on the scene wouldn’t comment on the incident. In an emailed statement, spokesperson Carollyn Parrish said FWC is handling the ongoing investigation.
The cyclist lost control at about 11 a.m. while riding over a wooden bridge on a trail over a mile into the park. He fell into a small body of water, about six feet down an embankment, where he was bit, according to the sheriff’s office. The man was able to crawl away, and a bystander helped rescue him.
The female alligator measured over 8-feet long, weighing an estimated 170 pounds, and was captured Monday by trapper John Davidson, who was called to the scene.
Davidson was able to capture the alligator quickly and believes it may have a nest nearby that prompted it to stay close to the area. The trapper plans to return to the park Tuesday to search for the eggs and safely relocate them.
“You got to be careful when you’re around the water, especially this time of year,” said Davidson, a retired fireman who has been a trapper for about 10 years. “The females are sitting on nests and are particularly aggressive.”
The alligator is being relocated to a farm near Fort Drum, Davidson said.
Davidson added that alligator attacks are very rare, maybe two or three annually throughout the state.
The last known fatal alligator attack in South Florida is believed to have happened in Davie in 2018. Shizuka Matsuki was walking her dogs at Silver Lakes Rotary Park on June 8 when she was apparently attacked by an alligator, according to the FWC. Her body was found in the park’s lake after apparently being bitten by a 12-foot-6-inch alligator. She was last seen walking her dogs. One of them was bitten but survived.
In 2016, a 2-year-old boy was attacked and likely drowned, according to officials, after wading in waters near the luxury Disney Grand Floridian Resort and Spa, where his family was staying on vacation.
The death spurred on changes at the park, including more visible signs warning of alligators and more fencing.
Catie Wegman is TCPalm’s community reporter. You can keep up with Catie on Twitter @Catie_Wegman, on Facebook @catiewegman1 and email her email@example.com.