A terrifying encounter between a Florida paddleboarder and an 11-foot, 10-inch alligator has ended in the reptile being killed as a potential threat to humans, according to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission.
The alligator was trapped Feb. 22 and removed at the request of Silver Springs State Park, where the incident occurred in September, state officials told McClatchy News.
It was dispatched with a shot to the head, Fresh Take Florida reported, and state wildlife officials say its body was processed for its hide and meat.
The deadly measure was authorized after photos and video surfaced on social media of the alligator swimming up close to paddleboarder Vicki Reamy Baker, including bumping its snout against the craft.
Baker is seen pushing the alligator away with her paddle, only to hear the alligator hiss in frustration.
“Why are you messing with me? Why are you trying to bite me?” Baker is heard saying in one video.
“I’ve never had an alligator after me like that before. Look how close he is to me. He came after me and tried to bite my paddleboard. Somebody has been feeding that gator. Makes them very dangerous.”
In one video, an observer is heard telling Baker she should back away from the alligator “considering you just made him pretty mad,” after she pushed the gator away with her paddle.
Baker said she was paddleboarding with two other people at the time and they reported the incident to a park ranger when they returned to shore. The 4,000-acre park, about 80 miles northwest of Orlando, includes “the entire 5-mile Silver River and surrounding sandhill forest.”
“He came up fast and out of nowhere. Scared the daylights out of me,” Baker wrote on Facebook.
“My feet were in the water and I was talking to my friends. I didn’t have time to do anything but react. No way was I standing up. I would have fallen in the water.”
However, others — including the park’s managers — saw aggression and potential threat in the reptile’s familiarity with close human contact.
“Gators are usually afraid of people but when people feed them they lose their fear,” one woman wrote on Facebook. “If people did not feed the gator he would’ve stayed away from the people.”
Florida has an estimated 1.3 million alligators and they can be found in the waterways of all 67 counties, the state says.
“Nuisance alligators” are defined as those that are “at least 4 feet in length and believed to pose a threat to people, pets or property,” the state says.
The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission provides nuisance alligator removal services at no cost, using contracted trappers. The trappers get to keep the alligator carcass for its meat and hide as part of their compensation, the state says.