LAKE CITY, Fla. - An alligator bit a Keystone Heights man on the leg Thursday afternoon while he was building a dock at Lake Jeffery in Columbia County.
James "Mike" Tennant, 44, was bitten on the calf just after 3 p.m. while working in about 4 feet of water, according to Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission spokeswoman Karen Parker.
Tennant was taken to University of Florida Health Shands Hospital in Gainesville and had surgery.
Parker says the agency issued a permit to a trapper to capture the gator, which was 8 feet 3 inches long and about 150 pounds. It was caught Thursday night and killed.
Tennant's friends said after the gator bit him, he jumped into a canoe, grabbed a rope and tied it around his leg as a tourniquet to stop the bleeding, and then he paddled himself to shore.
"We were just leveling up the posts and he was holding it up level, and he started dragging backwards, and the gator had a hold of his leg. Just as simple as that," witness Eric Knight said.
Knight was just a foot or two away from his friend Tennant when it happened.
"He was just like confused as he was dragging backwards, and then you could see it in his eyes, he realized the gator had him and he was like, 'I'm getting bitten by a gator,'" Knight said. "He grabbed my arm and pulled away, and he jumped in the canoe. And I ran and jumped on a dock."
"Yeah he lost this right here. It grabbed him right by the backside of the calf," witness Jeff Nichols said.
Nichols, who is Tennant's boss, said he was bleeding badly but didn't lose his cool. The 44-year-old paddled to the half-finished dock, and the others helped him from there.
"Actually, he did very well. I'm quite impressed," Nichols said. "We got him out, pulled him up, carried him up to hear, set him down, and waited for the ambulance."
Tennant's friends say he was in about 4 feet of water and 200 feet from the shore when the alligator grabbed him from underneath, and none of them saw it coming.
"Haven't had an issue, haven't had a sighting, haven't seen anything, nothing at all," Nichols said.
"The gator's lucky he wasn't on land. Mike might have took him in his own element," Knight said while laughing. "(Tennant)'s a tough guy."
Tennant's friends said they are confident the father of two will make a full recovery.
They said in the meantime, as far as their project is concerned, they're not getting back in the water where the alligators are. Instead they're trying to find a boat or a barge they can work off so that nobody else gets hurt.
There were seven gator attacks on people in Florida last year, four in 2011, three in 2010, eight in 2009 and 14 in 2007, according to FWC. The last fatal gator attack was in 2007.
Residents should not feed gators because it is illegal and could make them come closer to people.
To report a nuisance gator, call 1-866-FWC-GATOR.
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