Woman Fights Off Alligator While Swimming in Florida Lake

An alligator (not pictured) is believed to have attacked and woman in South Carolina.
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Felicitie Gillette was swimming in Lake Hernando about 1 a.m. when an alligator, estimated to be between 5- and 6-feet, grabbed her left arm.

A 24-year-old woman survived what could have been a deadly encounter with an alligator that tried dragging her underwater as she swam in a Florida lake, authorities said.

Felicitie Gillette was swimming in Lake Hernando about 1 a.m. Wednesday when an alligator, estimated to be between 5 and 6 feet, grabbed her left arm, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation (FWC) Commission said.

Gillette, who authorities said is homeless, wrestled with the gator until she freed herself from its grip and made it to land, where she called 911. 

“It came up out of nowhere and attacked,” Gillette reportedly said in the call. “I’m freaking out.”

Gillette was taken to Ocala Regional Hospital to be treated for non-life-threatening injuries and has since been released, officials said.

Two alligators, one measuring 6-foot-8 and the other measuring 7-foot-8, were removed from the lake by a contracted nuisance alligator trapper, the commission said.

Authorities advised that whenever a person believes an alligator poses a threat to people, pets or property, call the FWC Commission’s toll-free nuisance alligator hotline at 866-FWC-GATOR, or 866-392-4286.

“We place the highest priority on public safety and will dispatch one of our contracted nuisance alligator trappers to resolve the situation,” a spokeswoman for the commission said.

The FWC Commission recommended several tips to keep in mind to remain out of harm’s way where an alligator is concerned:

- Never feed an alligator. It's illegal and causes alligators to overcome their natural wariness and learn to associate people with food.

- Keep your distance if you see one. Alligators may look lethargic but can move quickly.

- Swim only in designated swimming areas during daylight hours. Alligators are most active between dusk and dawn.

- Keep pets away from the water. Experts recommend staying at least 10 feet away from the water’s edge.

Wednesday’s attack came days after the death of Cassandra Cline, the 45-year-old mother and kindergarten teacher who was killed after an alligator dragged her into a South Carolina lake.

Cline was walking her dog when she encountered the gator near the 13th hole on the Sea Pines Plantation community golf course in Hilton Head on Monday.

The alligator tried to attack the dog, but Cline held firm on its leash and a tug-of-war ensued before she was dragged into the water. Cline died of her injuries at the scene. The dog was not harmed in the incident.