Just weeks after a man’s hand and foot were discovered inside an alligator’s stomach, witnesses describe seeing alligators drag a”badly decomposed” body into a Florida lake.
The body was found in the mangroves of Lake Maggiore on Thursday morning, St. Petersburg police told the Tampa Bay Times.
“It is badly decomposed,” police department spokeswoman Yolanda Fernandez said. “We’re unable to tell anything about it — gender or race or anything.”
Witnesses described the horrific sight of alligators dragging the body through the water, but police said it’s too soon to know the cause of death.
“I saw an alligator take a chunk out of [the body], throw it up in the air and catch it and eat it,” said one of the witnesses, Patricia Kays, who was at the lake with her partner. “I had to go back to the car after that. I couldn’t watch anymore.”
Kays and her partner told a nearby city worker what they saw, then called police.
In a statement posted to Facebook, police confirmed that a death investigation was underway Thursday after the gruesome find in the southeast corner of the 380-acre lake.
“Due to the condition of the body, the Medical Examiner will determine the cause of death,” St. Petersburg police said. “If you have any information please call St. Petersburg Police 893–7780.”
At this time, police did not want to characterize the incident as an “alligator attack.”
“At this time, we cannot call it an alligator attack, simply that there were alligators around the body when we found it and that made it a little more difficult in getting to it,” Fernandez told WFTS. “In cases like this, we definitely want to check the shoreline, so we’ve asked fire rescue to go around in the boat to see if maybe there are any personal effects — a backpack, information, a wallet.”
Summertime is mating season for alligators, according to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC)’s website.
Alligators are known to be more aggressive during mating season. During the mating season last June, a 12 and a-half-foot gator pulled a woman into a Florida pond and killed her.
According to FWC, the state has averaged five unprovoked alligator bites yearly since 1948. Twenty-two bites have resulted in death, the agency said. Alligators can be found in all 67 counties.