Ocala woman has a close encounter with an alligator

Published: Sep. 16, 2021 at 6:59 PM EDT
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SARASOTA, Fla. (WWSB) - A woman from Ocala, Florida was shaken after a curious alligator came up to her while at Silver Springs State Park.

Vicki Reamy Baker posted photos and videos on Facebook of the alligator while paddleboarding with friends during the Labor Day weekend. Baker had to use her paddle to push the gator away as it hissed. However, not only did she have to fend off the alligator once, but twice.

Baker told ABC 7 that she was trying to take her friends, who were visiting from out of state, to go see the monkeys. However, plans changed quickly when this gator became too friendly. “It was almost like a dog coming up wanting me to throw a treat. It just scared me to death. I got him away and then he came right back, he just turned around and came right back I didn’t have time to do anything,” Baker stated.

Gator gets curious with paddle boarder
Gator gets curious with paddle boarder(WWSB)

Baker is a native of Florida and has never had a gator come up like this. In the video, you can hear Baker say the “someone has been feeding this alligator.”

Jill Spuria, a gator handler at Sarasota Jungle Gardens, explained, “There was probably someone that was feeding that alligator, so it was used to people, and that’s why it was going up to her thinking that she maybe had food. Or since it was recently filmed, perhaps she was protecting her nest if it was in fact a female alligator.” Spuria went on to explain that it is baby alligator season.

The incident has sparked an investigation into the alligator because if a gator is fed by humans then attacks a human it will be put down. This serving as a good reminder to never feed wild animals, especially alligators. It’s illegal.

Here on the Suncoast, we also have a fair share of alligators. So if this was you on the paddleboard, what should you do?

Spuria explained, “Remain very calm, she honestly did the correct thing. She remained calm, she tried to paddle away some, obviously you do not want to antagonize the gator; you don’t want to poke at it, because then it might see you more as a threat. You just want to kind of let it be and put some space in between you and that alligator.

Spuria said that in this case using the paddle to push off the gator was a much better choice than an hand. If that alligator was to bite the inflatable paddleboard, Spuria said the best thing to do is, “Swim away! She wouldn’t really want to fight the alligator unless it is actively biting her arm, in that case you can try to cover their nostrils, to basically cover their airways. They don’t necessarily breathe in and out through their mouths, they can, but their main way to breathe is through the nostril so if she were to cover that, then that could potentially save her in that position.

“She would obviously want to put some distance in between her and the gator, so maybe just give the paddleboard as a prize to the alligator while she gets away.”

To learn more about the American Alligator, check out the Sarasota Jungle Gardens.

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