Man bit in face by alligator at Florida disc golf park

Around the South

LARGO, Fla. (WFLA) — A man was retrieving a disc golf Frisbee in Largo when an alligator bit him in the face, sending him to the hospital.

According to Largo Police 40-year-old Travis Spitzer was searching for disc-golf frisbees in the lake at Taylor Park around 5:00 am when the gator attacked.

Police said Spitzer was in waist-deep water and was able to pry himself free and escape, suffering cuts on his face and hands. He is expected to survive.

This wasn’t Spitzer’s first time in the lake. He’s been arrested for trespassing and collecting discs in the water a couple of times before, as recently as January.

Players tell 8 On Your Side people will go into the water to collect lost discs that usually cost $18/each and sell them back to local shops for $3/each.

“I don’t go wading deep in, the guys that do that are called ‘squids’. They do that and turn them in for money,” said player Rob Fitzjarrald.

“I prefer to let it ride,” said player Travis Duncan. “It’s a piece of plastic, $18 is not worth your life, an arm, leg or a face. I hope he’s alright. But it made me keep my eye out today as I’m out here shooting,” said Duncan.

“It’s horrific,” said player Gerry Rogers. “I’m used to it, I live on the coast and we know better. We stay away from the water. Gators don’t care weather you want to look at them or not, they have 1 thing in mind,” said Rogers.

The FWC is investigating and will provide updates when they are available.

The FWC said they began collecting alligator bite incident data in 1928.  Since then in Pinellas County there have been 31 reported alligator bite incidents.  Specific to the City of Largo, there have been 7 reported alligator bite incidents.  

FWC officials told 8 On Your Side they place their highest priority on public safety and encourage the public to be aware of their surroundings at all times. “If you see an alligator, keep a safe distance. If someone is concerned about an alligator, they should call FWC’s toll-free Nuisance Alligator Hotline at 866-FWC-GATOR (866-392-4286), and we will dispatch a contracted nuisance alligator trapper to resolve the situation,” said FWC Officer Specialist Bryce Phillippi.

Phillippi said Floridians and visitors should take precautionary measures when in or near the water especially during warm weather to reduce the chances of conflicts with alligators. He said alligators are most active and visible when the weather is warm, and in some places in Florida, that can occur year-round.

The FWC offered the following precautionary measures for those who live or recreate near the water to reduce the chances of conflicts with alligators.

  • Keep a safe distance if you see an alligator and never feed one. When fed, alligators can overcome their natural wariness and learn to associate people with food. 
  • Swim only in designated swimming areas during daylight hours. Alligators are most active between dusk and dawn.
  • And keep pets on a leash and away from the water’s edge. Pets can resemble alligators’ natural prey.
  • If someone is concerned about an alligator, they should call FWC’s toll-free Nuisance Alligator Hotline at 866-FWC-GATOR (866-392-4286), and we will dispatch a contracted nuisance alligator trapper to resolve the situation.

Click here to learn more about Living with Alligators from the FWC.

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