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Alligator suspected of dragging woman into pond

An alligator suns in the Florida Everglades near Homestead, Fla. on this Nov. 11, 2006. (J. Pat Carter / AP)
An alligator suns in the Florida Everglades near Homestead, Fla. on this Nov. 11, 2006. (J. Pat Carter / AP)
By Linda Trischitta and Wayne K. Roustan Sun Sentinel (Fort Lauderdale, Fla.)

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. – Police and trappers were watching an alligator that was believed to have dragged a woman into a pond in Davie, Fla., on Friday morning.

The woman was walking her dogs near the pond in the Silver Lakes Rotary Nature Park, Davie Police Maj. Dale Engle said.

“Her dogs won’t leave the pond,” Engle said. “One of her dogs got bit by the gator.”

The scene is several blocks southwest of the Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casino, just west of Florida’s Turnpike and north of Stirling Road.

A witness told police he saw a woman walking two dogs and then noticed the dogs were barking near the water, but without her, Davie Police Detective Viviana Gallinal said later in the morning.

“He could not find the woman that was walking the dogs, so he called for police assistance and we’re still looking for her,” Gallinal said. “At this time, we haven’t had any reports of anybody missing other than this witness, who saw her earlier and then never saw her again.”

Trappers have spotted an alligator in the pond that is about 12 feet long and were watching it, Gallinal said.

Also investigating were officers from the Florida Fish & Wildlife Conservation Commission.

“We can’t call the dive team in until they capture the ‘gator,” Engle said.

Myrna Bernard and her daughter Rachel Bernard, 18, live south of the pond and said alligator sightings are not rare.

Rachel Bernard said she was out by their pool about 1:30 a.m. Friday and the family’s Pit bull Tony was growling and behaving strangely before he took off from their backyard and ran into bushes. She heard a hissing sound and believes it was coming from a ‘gator. Their pet Tony returned home, unharmed.

Alligators live in all 67 of Florida’s counties, and as development happens near wetlands and waterfronts, people can expect to encounter the reptiles, the Florida Fish & Wildlife Conservation Commission says on its website.

The FWC has a nuisance hotline to report concerns about ‘gators, and in the past decade the agency has received about 16,000 gator-related complaints each year.

Alligators make national news when they show up in homeowners’ swimming pools or at their front doors. Nuisance ‘gators that are taken by trappers are usually destroyed.

Though alligator encounters are fairly common in Florida, the state averages only ”about five unprovoked bites per year,“ FWC says. Since 1948, it says there have been 300 incidents when alligators have bitten people, and 22 have died.

The state said among local deaths by alligators, a 36-year-old man died while swimming across a pond in November 2007 in West Miami. An alligator “seized and drowned” him in the water that was at the Miccosukee Indian reservation.

Witnesses reported the man disappeared beneath the water while trying to elude police. Divers found his body at the bottom of the pond, and two gators – one 9 feet, 4 inches long, the other 7 feet, 6 inches long – were removed from the pond. The larger reptile was believed to have been responsible for the attack, according to the FWC.

In Broward County in May 2006, a 28-year-old woman was killed by an alligator at the North New River Canal in Sunrise, the FWC said. An alligator that was 9 feet, 6 inches long that attacked her was caught and destroyed, according to the state.

The FWC advises:

  • It’s illegal to feed alligators in Florida. They’ll also lurk near anglers to eat fish scraps.
  • Keep pets away from the edge of waterways.
  • Never swim outside of posted safe swimming areas or in water that may have alligators. Also, swim during daylight hours.
  • Keep dogs and cats away from water that may contain alligators. Dogs also attract ‘gators, so don’t swim with your pet.
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