Alligator rips off woman's arm in Florida canal

Published On: Sep 26 2012 01:03:33 PM EDT   Updated On: Sep 26 2012 02:34:57 PM EDT
LEESBURG, Fla. -

An alligator ripped off an elderly woman's arm Wednesday in a central Florida canal, authorities said.

The woman was in critical condition after surgery at an Orlando hospital, said Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission spokeswoman Joy Hill.

The Lake County Sheriff's Office identified the woman as Carol Hough, 84, of Leesburg.

Hough's neighbor told the Orlando Sentinel that he saw Hough flailing around 6:30 a.m. in the 4-foot-deep canal that runs behind their mobile homes.

It wasn't clear how Hough ended up in the water.

Delmas Zickefoose said he jumped into the canal and pulled Hough back to land.

"I laid her on the bank on my shore and I just held her," Zickefoose said. "I kept telling her the rescue squad is on the way."

Hough lost her right arm between the elbow and shoulder, Hill said. It was not clear how she ended up in the water.

Hough just said, "Gator, gator" and asked for her late husband as they waited for rescue workers to arrive, Zickefoose said.

A sheriff's deputy tracked an 8-foot alligator along the canal. A wildlife officer shot at the alligator twice, Hill said.

The alligator sunk down into the water, but it wasn't clear if it was dead, Hill said.

It will eventually be pulled from the water for a necropsy, but it will be too late to consider reattaching Hough's arm if the limb is found inside, Hill said.

Alligators that bite or attack humans are usually killed so that authorities can attempt to retrieve severed limbs and prevent the animals from attacking again.

Neighbors said the canal connects to a larger waterway that is home to large alligators.

"It's good alligator habitat up here," Hill said. "You're not going to live here and not see an alligator."

Wednesday's attack was the latest grisly encounter between Florida residents and alligators.

Alligator attacks are rare compared to dog bites or lightning strikes, Hill said, but most are provoked by humans feeding the animals or doing something that causes them to react.

"Unprovoked attacks would be like this one appears to be at this point. It just simply seems as if the woman was in there and it was an opportunity for the alligator," Hill said.

In July, a Moore Haven teenager lost part of his arm after being attacked by a 10-foot alligator while swimming in the Caloosahatchee River. Wildlife officials caught and killed the alligator.

An airboat captain lost a hand to a 9-foot alligator he was feeding while giving an Indiana family a tour of the Everglades in June. Feeding alligators is a second-degree misdemeanor, and he was charged with unlawful feeding of an alligator.