Fla. Man Hospitalized After Alligator Bites His Face During Swim Near Tampa

·2 min read

A Florida man was hospitalized last week after an alligator bit him in the face.

Juan Carlos La Verde, 34, of Brandon, was swimming in Lake Thonotosassa last Wednesday afternoon when the alligator attacked, according to a statement from the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) obtained by PEOPLE.

The FWC did not disclose the extent of La Verde's injuries. Hillsborough County Fire Rescue transported the victim to Tampa General Hospital for treatment, according to USA Today.

Tampa General Hospital did not immediately respond to PEOPLE's requests for comment.

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A nuisance alligator trapper was dispatched to Lake Thonotosassa following the incident, according to the FWC. (Lake Thonotosassa is located about 30 miles outside of Tampa.)

Alligator
Alligator

Getty File image of an alligator

The FWC says it is leading an investigation into last Wednesday's incident.

Though rare, alligator attacks are not unheard of in Florida. The state recorded 442 unprovoked alligator bite incidents between 1948 to 2021, the FWC said in November 2021. Of those instances, 26 were fatal.

At least three people have died in alligator attacks in 2022 alone, including two people in Florida.

In May, 47-year-old Thomas McGuinness died after he was injured by an alligator while reportedly searching for Frisbees in Taylor Lake in Largo.

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Lake Thonotosassa in Thonotosassa, Florida.
Lake Thonotosassa in Thonotosassa, Florida.

Piperpet/Wikimedia

In July, an 80-year-old woman was killed in an alligator attack after she fell into a lake on a golf course near her Florida home, according to USA Today.

A third person was killed in Myrtle Beach, S.C., after they were attacked at a nearby retention pond.

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Prior to 2022, a fatal alligator attack had not occurred in Florida since 2019, according to data from the FWC. The last time two or more fatal attacks occurred in Florida in one year was 16 years ago, in 2006.

Around 1.3 million alligators live in Florida, according to the FWC's website. In 2021, nearly 9,500 nuisance alligators — described as being at least 4 feet in length and posing "a threat to people, pets or property" — were killed in the state.

Under the Statewide Nuisance Alligator Program (SNAP), the FWC aims "to proactively address alligator threats in developed areas, while conserving alligators in areas where they naturally occur."

Anyone concerned about a nuisance alligator in Florida is asked to call the FWC's toll-free hotline at 866-392-4286.

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