Florida teen chased up tree by monster alligator saved by hero deputy

Gun vs. gator: Beast unfazed by human taken down by AR-15-style rifle

By Emilee Speck - Digital journalist

ASTOR, Fla. - A Florida teen lived to tell her terrifying tale of climbing up a tree to escape the jaws of a 9-foot alligator, thanks to a Lake County Sheriff's Office deputy who took out the scaly giant with a single gunshot.

This only-in-Florida story happened Friday in Astor when the large alligator began approaching the 15-year-old Titusville girl floating on a raft in Freak Creek near Alexander Springs. She quickly reached the shoreline and climbed up a tree to safety. The persistent alligator refused to give up, staying at the base of the tree hissing, according to the incident report.

Wildlife experts say alligators do not normally eat humans because they are much too big. Hissing is something they do when confronted by a predator as a defensive behavior.

According to the frantic 911 call made by the teen's mother, there was more than one alligator involved.

The mother called 911 after her daughter had been up the tree overhanging a creek for about 30 minutes, according to the report. She told dispatch that the teen scaled the tree to escape alligators, which were not allowing her to escape from her perch.

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"She got in the tree to get out of the water, there's gators on land and in the water," the 15-year-old's mother told 911. "My daughter's stuck in a frickin' tree and there's gators surrounding her."

When a Lake County sheriff's deputy arrived, he immediately located the teen in distress by following her screams to the tree where he also heard a "loud hissing, which confirmed that an alligator was nearby."

The deputy estimated the alligator was 10 to 11 feet long.

The girl, tired from clinging to the tree, couldn't wait for the Lake County Marine Unit to arrive in another 20 minutes, the deputy wrote in the report.

The alligator was not scared off when the deputy started to approach the tree and instead it began to advance on him. However, the deputy did have a significant advantage over the Florida predator: his Lake County Sheriff's Office-issued firearm.

The deputy fire a single round from his Bushmaster AR-15-style rifle, killing the alligator, and then helped the teen down from the tree. The gator's carcass was recovered Friday night, officials said.

Other than to the alligator -- and the teen's nerves-- there were no injuries.

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