Alligator attacks hiker floating down river

Suzanne Barnes bitten on head in Ocala National Forest

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OCALA, Fla. - A woman floating down a river in the Ocala National Forest was bitten on the head by an alligator, wildlife officials say.

The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission says four hikers were lost Sunday when they began floating down a river in the Juniper Springs Wilderness, a remote area of the national forest where swimming is prohibited.

Wildlife officials say a 6- to 8-foot alligator attacked Suzanne Barnes, biting her on the head.

A FWC incident report says the bite "appears to be a case of mistaken identity" because the alligator immediately let go and swam away.

Commission spokeswoman Joy Hill says the hikers asked a passing canoeist for help. The canoeist eventually reached a fire station, which dispatched firefighters in canoes to rescue the hikers.

Barnes was treated at the scene before driving herself to a hospital to be treated for minor injuries.

Wildlife officials described Juniper Springs as "truly an untamed area," saying "there is always a risk of encountering wildlife in the woods."

"We are not going to try to catch the alligator," Hill said.

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