An 80-year-old woman was killed by two alligators after she fell into a pond near her house in Englewood, Fla., on Friday night, the authorities said.
Fatal alligator attacks are rare in the United States, typically occurring about once a year, but the latest was at least the third in the United States since May. The body of a man who had been retrieving Frisbees from a lake in Largo, Fla., was found on May 31. And in June, a man was killed after being dragged into a retention pond by an alligator in Myrtle Beach, S.C.
In the latest attack, the woman struggled to stay afloat after falling into the pond at the Boca Royale Golf and Country Club community and was then seized by two alligators, the Sarasota County Sheriff’s Office said. Club officials could not be immediately reached on Sunday.
The victim, Rose Marie Wiegand, was pronounced dead at the scene. Douglas Johnson, a spokesman for the Sheriff’s Office, said the Sarasota County Medical Examiner’s Office had determined that she died “as a result of the alligator attack.”
The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission sent a contracted trapper who removed two alligators from the pond and euthanized them, said Adam Brown, commission spokesman. One alligator was 8 feet 10 inches long and the other measured 7 feet 7 inches long.
Alligators live throughout Florida and survive in fresh, brackish and salt waters, according to the commission, which estimates the state has more than one million of the large reptiles.
Alligators are “more visible and active” in the warmer months when their metabolism rises and they search for food, Mr. Brown said. But they rarely bite people and fatalities are infrequent.
“As a Floridian and biologist, you just have to be careful around freshwater habitats,” said Michael Heithaus, a marine ecologist and Florida International University biology professor.
Alligators play an important role as predators in Florida’s ecosystem and biologists are working to rebuild their populations, Mr. Heithaus said, a possible reason people are seeing more of them. They are classified as a threatened species, the step before endangered.
“We have to be more aware and to make sure we’re finding ways to coexist alongside these big predators and find ways to keep us safe and keep them safe,” he said.
The chance of a Florida resident being seriously injured is roughly one in 3.1 million, the fish and wildlife commission said.
Last year, nine people in Florida were bitten by alligators in unprovoked attacks, according to the commission’s records.
At least four people in Florida have died from alligator bites over the last decade in a variety of situations: walking a pet, swimming to evade the police, playing in a lagoon at a Disney resort and snorkeling.
The risk of a fatal alligator attack is low compared with the likelihood of other accidental deaths in the state, according a 2019 analysis by the University of Florida.
“Alligators are opportunistic feeders and will eat animals that are readily available to them,” the commission reported. “They prefer to go after prey they can overpower easily.”
April Rubin contributed reporting.