BRADENTON, Fla — Gordon Silver said Saturday evening was like any other for his neighbor, 77-year-old Kathleen Marder. That is until she rounded a corner near a pond in the Del Webb Lakewood Ranch Retirement Community in Lakewood Ranch, Florida.
"She walks this sidewalk all the time every day," he said. "I guess he was in the bushes, and she didn't see him from what I understand, and she must have walked right by the gator within a foot or so of that gator."
According to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC), a nearly eight-foot gator bit Marder. FWC crews later caught and euthanized it.
An FWC nuisance alligator trapper was dispatched to the scene where he removed a 7’10” alligator. A person who witnessed the incident maintained visual contact with the alligator until it was captured. There were no other alligators in the area fitting the size and description of the responsible alligator. Officials are confident the responsible alligator was removed.
Marder, on the other hand, is currently being treated for her injuries and Silver said that it's all thanks to the quick thinking of another neighbor.
"He immediately started shouting and screaming and the gator turned around and went right into the water. So you know, he saved her life really because who knows what would have happened after that," he said.
Silver said the incident is shocking for many reasons — but especially because of how close it happened to his own home and because he often photographs gators in the area. And in his experience, he knows them to be a bit more skittish.
"I've never had one come near me; they usually run the other way," he said.
That said, Silver also adds that he hopes the incident doesn't make the community fear these animals and instead raises everyone's awareness about them.
"Be more aware and also don't feed them. And if they're nesting, you want to stay away because they will — any mother is going to protect their babies — so if you get near a nest, you could be attacked," he said.
According to the FWC, there have been 22 reported gator-bite incidents this year. That's up from 21 reports last year. Overall, they added that these incidents — especially an unprovoked bite — are quite rare.
If you have a concern about an alligator in your area, the FWC has a toll-free Nuisance Alligator Hotline—866-FWC-GATOR (866-392-4286).
This article was written by Rochelle Alleyne for WFTS.