TALLAHASSEE, Fla. - The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission is investigating an alligator attack that left a 17-year-old boy without part of his arm.
Authorities say Kaleb Langdale was swimming with friends in the Caloosahatchee River in Moore Haven when he was attacked by the alligator. The animal reportedly swam directly toward Langdale, who tried to shield himself with his right arm. The alligator bit off the boy's arm below the elbow.
Langdale was airlifted to the hospital and is recovering.
Tony Young of the FWC says it's rare for alligators to bite a person, especially during the day. Young says alligators are most active at night so you should never swim between dusk and dawn and don't swim alone.
"When you're in and around water where alligators could be present, just be aware of that. Pay attention to your surroundings. Closely supervise small children when in and around water. Alligators have been known to be attracted to dogs because they closely resemble their natural prey so it's not smart to have small dogs in and around the water, especially if they're barking because that can attract the alligators to you."
Young also suggests swimming or snorkeling in areas where there are a lot of people or boat traffic because alligators tend to move away from locations with lots of human activity.
Young says Langdale's response to the approaching gator was normal and it's hard to say exactly what the "right" response is in such a harrowing situation.
"I guess you just have to live in the moment and do whatever you need to do to try to fight off that bite. Sounds like the boy is keeping a good attitude about it and from what I heard, his friends say he'll be the next to get in the water when he's back from the hospital so he's keeping a positive outlook."
Trappers caught the alligator that attacked Langdale.
Last year, the state of Florida's alligator nuisance hotline took more than 16,000 complaints and removed about 7,000 alligators from populated areas.
Call 1-866-FWC-GATOR to report a nuisance alligator and a trapper will be sent to remove the animal. That's 1-866-392-4286.