Elderly woman attacked by gator while gardening in Lee County

Posted at 7:35 PM, Jul 10, 2017
and last updated 2017-07-11 11:16:42-04

SAN CARLOS PARK, Fla. -- A Lee County woman remains in the hospital after a gator attack in San Carlos Park. The victim was reportedly bitten in the leg Sunday while she was gardening at her home on Cypress Haven Drive.

71-year-old Genie Witzel was gardening outside her home in Shadow Wood Preserve when a 10 foot alligator attacked her, according to a neighbor.

San Carlos Park Fire District was dispatched shortly after 6 p.m. and arrived to find Witzel with injuries from an alligator bite. 

She was transported as a trauma alert by Lee Flight and her neighbor, Edward Lode, says her calf was badly injured.

Residents of Shadow Wood Preserve say they've seen this gator often. One resident, who has only been living there for about seven weeks, says he's seen it at least a half a dozen times.

This is also one of three different recent alligator attacks in Southwest Florida: one in DeSoto County, one in Charlotte County and now this one in Lee County.

We spoke with professional wildlife handler, David Weathers, about why he thinks these attacks are getting more common.  He's been handling alligators for 30 years and says these animals are trained by repetition. He also says if someone were to feed an alligator once, the wild animal will know to come back.

When it comes to the attack on Genie Witzel, his experience tells him that this is the case.  "I say somebody's been feeding it," says Weathers. "Whether it's her or somebody else, whatever gesture she was doing made that alligator think that there was food there."

Weathers says giving an alligator food is basically signing their death warrant.

When large alligators are caught, larger than four feet in length, they are typically euthanized, not relocated according to FWC.