VOLUSIA COUNTY, Fla. – A Daytona Beach man bitten by a 9-foot alligator Saturday said the attack happened after he heard a noise at his front door and opened it, only to find an unexpected visitor.
Scot Hollingsworth said he was watching TV with his wife at their home on Champions Drive when he heard a bump at the door.
“I jumped up and headed over and opened the door, stepped out while trying to reach the lights and barely got out the door and got my leg clamped on and (it) started shaking really violently,” he said.
Hollingsworth said it was dark outside, so his first thought was it could have been a big dog attacking him.
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“It happened so quickly, wasn’t a whole lot (of time). It was just total surprise and shock,” he said. “We see alligators behind our house, it’s a regular thing, but they always keep their distance from us.”
Hollingsworth was bitten in the upper thigh and taken to a hospital with non-life-threatening injuries.
“I suspect I surprised the alligator as much as he surprised me,” Hollingsworth said.
A trapper called by the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission found the gator and euthanized it. According to FWC, nuisance alligators are euthanized and not relocated because there is a stable and healthy population in Florida. Relocated alligators often try to return to the capture site or end up fighting with other alligators in their new habitat, FWC officials said.
Frank Robb has nearly 30 years of experience working with crocodilians and started the nonprofit Environmental Education Awareness Research Support and Services, or EEARSS. He said an alligator and human interactions will become more common as spring gets closer.
“Their hormones, which are actually very similar to ours, ramp up twice a year. This happens to coincide with spring and fall,” Robb said. “They’re just more active this time of year, and you start to see more human conflict with them kind of crossing paths, the more homes that are being built, the more things that are going on, the more you see them walking around doing stuff.”
Robb expects the coming weeks will be especially busy, especially with the recent rain.
“They’re not only moving to look for the water, but they’re having fights with other alligators and wanting to get up and move for that reason. Right now, we’ve been dealing with both,” Robb said.
Gatorland opened their doors to our News 6 crew Monday to share their mission of educating the public about how we can coexist with alligators in Florida.
Mike Hileman, the director of the wildlife park, said they have already taken in two “nuisance” gators so far this year.
“It’s early,” Hileman said. “Every year it seems to be climbing. Last year we did 20 something.”
Both of the gators they’ve rescued this year came from Polk County.
“They weren’t in somebody’s garage or in this case somebody’s front door, but they were in a neighborhood that had sprung up,” Hileman said.
Hileman said Gatorland typically works with some alligator trappers to take in larger gators.
According to FWC, an alligator is deemed a nuisance if it is at least 4 feet in length, and there is a threat to people, pets, or property.
“I guess it has to pose a threat, so by posing a threat does that mean it’s aggressive or just hanging out in the place it’s lived for the past 20 years,” Hileman said.
FWC works with contracted alligator trappers to remove unwanted or unwelcome alligators through their SNAP program. If a gator meets certain criteria, SNAP will authorize a permit for the trapper to resolve the situation. They have a Nuisance Alligator Hotline at 866-FWC-GATOR (866-392-4286).
“It’s a top predator that can get very large, and they can be kind of scary, but through education and being self-aware of your surroundings, we can coexist with these things,” Hileman said.
Hileman said you should never feed an alligator in the wild and keep your distance. He also reminds people to keep pets on a leash and away from the water.
Despite being bitten, Hollingsworth said he wished the alligator could have been spared.
“I worked on a farm growing up and have been out in the wildlife my whole life you know, I love seeing the animals, but not that close. It was a little too close for me,” he said.
Hollingsworth is expected to make a full recovery.
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