Man playing disc golf bitten by gator at Orlando park, officials say

Florida Fish and Wildlife investigates

By Jennifer Ortega - Reporter, Amanda Castro - Reporter/Anchor

ORLANDO, Fla. - An alligator bite was reported at an Orlando park Thursday evening, according to Orange County Fire Rescue officials.

Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission Officer Chad Weber said that a man was playing Frisbee golf lost one of his discs at Barnett Park on West Colonial Drive. When the man went to retrieve it, he instead found an alligator and was bitten on the thigh, Weber said.

Emergency crews rushed to the park around 7 p.m. after hearing a call on dispatch learning a man was bitten by an alligator near the soccer field.

A woman who called 911 said the man was bleeding from his right thigh and that after the attack, the alligator was seen walking around the soccer field.

"Yes, he's breathing, but he's in a lot of pain," the woman said.

[READ: Here's how to safely live with alligators]

News 6 was there as trappers showed up searching the area for the reptile. Trappers wrapped up their search efforts just before 3 p.m. We're told trappers put out lines with bait and they will be back out at night to see if they caught the gator.

FWC officials said the 6-foot alligator was likely trying to protect its den and defends its eggs. Wildlife experts advise parkgoers to be on the lookout for alligators during nesting season and avoid areas if they see a potential nest.

"This is just an accident, he wasn't doing anything wrong," Weber said of the bite victim, adding, "It's just, they both came upon each other."                 

Officials said they're not taking the incident lightly.    

[RELATED: What you need to know about alligator laws in Florida]

"We can't allow wildlife to do that to humans and we're trying to reduce that human, alligator conflict," Weber said.

FWC identified the victim as Andrew Hiotis, 31, of Orlando. He suffered non-life-threatening injuries and was taken to Orlando Regional Medical Center for treatment, officials said.

"Our investigators went and took photos and the bite impressions ... look similar to that of an alligator and matches the size of the alligator seen in that area," Weber said.

After searching through the night, crews told News 6 they found a gator nest near where the man was bitten.

Trappers were working Friday morning to lure the gator from wherever it's hiding. Once caught, the alligator will be euthanized, officials said.

Emanual Velez walks around Barnett Park every day. He said he will keep a more watchful eye for wildlife.

"I know this is a wild park, I know there's going to be a lot of wildlife around here, so just be more conscious from now on," Velez said.

Orange County officials said this is the first alligator bite at the park. Official also said the county will be put up several signs at Barnett Park in the next few weeks warning of alligators and dangerous wildlife in the area.

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