He was walking in a Florida park — then came a gator. It’s still out there, police say

A man crossed paths with an alligator at a Florida park Monday and ended up in the hospital.

According to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, William Simmons, 60, was in a wooded area around 4 p.m. in Wa-Ke Hatchee Park and Recreation Center in Fort Myers. That’s when the local man encountered the reptile.

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Senior FWC officer Adam Brown said Simmons “suffered bites and related injuries to his left shoulder, left arm and torso.”

Following the attack, a fisherman came upon Simmons wandering down an access road behind a middle school. The bystander gave first aid and called for help. Simmons was taken to the hospital with “serious” injuries and was listed in critical condition Tuesday.

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The fish and wildlife commission said the trapping efforts are ongoing. Officers have not been able to speak to Simmons so he couldn’t give more details.

Brown added that this type of violent incident with an alligator was “rare” in Florida.

By taking simple precautionary measures when in or near the water, people can reduce the chances of conflicts with alligators, he added, providing a few safety tips:

Keep pets on a leash and away from the water’s edge. Pets often resemble alligators’ natural prey.

Swim only in designated swimming areas during daylight hours and without your pet. Alligators are most active between dusk and dawn.

Never feed an alligator. It’s not illegal but dangerous for both them and you. When fed, alligators can lose their natural wariness and instead learn to associate people with the availability of food.

If you see an alligator, keep a safe distance and call FWC’s Nuisance Alligator Hotline at 866-FWC-GATOR (866-392-4286). The agency will dispatch a contracted trapper to resolve the situation.