When an 8-foot alligator snatched their pet dachshund from a dock at a Tallahassee wildlife preserve Saturday, Florida couple Rae Wilkerson and Mike Karris immediately ran into the alligator-infested water, sacrificing life and limb.
They tried to retrieve their 11-year-old pet Cody, but the alligator carried the dog off into a nearby pond.
“I couldn't catch up to the gator. It was so fast,” Karris told the Tallahassee Democrat Tuesday. “The whole thing, start to finish, didn't last 5 seconds and the dog wasn't on the ground for more than a minute.”
Karris, Wilkerson, and Cody were standing on a crowded boat ramp at St. Marks National Wildlife Refuge, preparing to leave the park when the alligator attacked. Karris estimates that the reptile exited the pond, crossed 10 feet of grass and gravel, climbed onto the pavement where the boat was parked and snatched the unleashed dog, the Daily Mail reports.
Considering how fearlessly the animal approached such a populated area, it is possible that the predator is acclimated to humans.
"While it's up to us to be our first line of defense and watch out for our loved ones, I'm not sure having a gator that's aggressive and not scared of humans at a family friendly park is a safe situation," said Karris.
Refuge manager Terry Peacock told The Tallahassee Democrat that individuals, not park employees, are responsible for keeping their pets safe. The park does remove alligators that become human-aggressive, she added. The reptile in question, however, does not have a prior record of aggression.
"I can't punish an alligator for being an alligator," Peacock said. "That's just an alligator being its normal self."
Peacock also noted that the last time an alligator attacked a dog at the refuge was over 15 years ago, and that violent incidents are rare. Unfortunately, people tend to forget that they are near wild animals when the attacks are so few and far-between, but officials at the refuge are now monitoring the alligator and handing out “living with alligators” literature to visitors, reports The Tallahassee Democrat.
"People just need to understand that we are a national wildlife refuge, and first and foremost, we are there for the wildlife," Peacock said.
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