Gator Attack On Ossabaw Island

It's the 30 year anniversary of one of the most bizarre animal encounters within WRD.

GON Staff | June 26, 2024

On Wednesday, June 15, 1994, Wildlife Resources Division Biologist Steve Kyles was on Ossabaw Island to give a talk about alligators to a group of Boy Scouts. At about 11:15 a.m., Steve and a group of 10 or 12 scouts and several ladies were at a gator hole at the edge of one of the roads that crosses the island. There were several gators in sight on the water, including several 15 or 20 feet away. Steve had grunted softly with his voice to get the alligator’s attention, and then he squatted down about 2 feet away from the water’s edge so that the scouts would have a better view of the gators over his back. He continued to give his talk on the natural history and behavior of alligators.

What he was unable to see was a 10-foot gator that was submerged just off the bank.

There are lots of feral hogs on Ossabaw and possibly the hidden gator thought Steve was a hog coming for water. In a rush, the alligator surged up on the bank at Steve.

“I saw it coming out of the corner of my eye,” said Steve.

As he recoiled from the gator, he instinctively put his arm out to fend off the attack. His right arm disappeared into the gator’s mouth all the way up to the elbow.

Typically, as soon as an alligator takes prey, it will begin to roll or twist to take the animal down. This one didn’t do that, and there may have been a reason.

“What would you do if someone was squeezing your tongue as hard as they could?” said Steve.

He was doing exactly that with the hand that was in the gator’s mouth. At the same time, he immediately began to gouge at the gator’s eyes with his left hand.

“The tongue and eyes are about the only places you can hurt a gator,” said Steve. “Everywhere else is pretty much protected.”

The quick reaction may have saved Steve.

The gator, apparently surprised at the counterattack, let go of Steve’s arm. But before Steve could jerk away, the gator snapped down on the arm again, this time just below the elbow. Steve continued to squeeze the tongue and gouge at the eye sockets. By now the 300-Ib. gator had pulled Steve toward the water, and one of Steve’s legs was in up to his waist.

“My biggest concern was that I didn’t want to get out in that water,” said Steve.

“There were close to 30 gators in that hole up to 13 feet long, and I didn’t want to get in a tug-of-war between them.”

The scouts, meanwhile, were in a general state of hysteria. Steve recalls hearing a good bit of screaming behind him.

Finally, the gator let go of Steve’s arm and slid back into the water.

“My arm was bleeding badly at first,” said Steve. “But it quit bleeding almost right away.”

Steve went for medical attention and had 14 stitches in his arm and the 10 or 12 puncture wounds treated. Luckily, the large teeth on the side of the gator’s mouth had not bitten the arm, and most of the damage was done by the gator’s smaller front teeth. Steve said his hand and fingers were okay. Infection is a serious problem following an alligator bite, and he was also put on antibiotic. He went back to work that afternoon.

Steve, who has had experience working with gators in the past, downplayed the incident.

“I don’t consider it a big deal,” he said. “It could have been a lot worse, and I hope I didn’t scare those kids too badly. I don’t want people to fear alligators because of this. You do need to take precautions if there are a lot of gators around, especially if they are large ones.”

After the attack 30 years ago, the immediate question was what WRD would do about the gator.

“We are divided on that question,” said biologist Bob Monroe in Brunswick at the time. “What we may do is assign that gator to our nuisance gator trapper in the area, and if the individual gator can be identified, it will be captured. Because this gator has displayed the behavior of attacking a human, it may be a threat to others.”

The day after the attack, Steve returned to the same pond, and the 10-foot-long gator was laying in exactly the same spot.

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  1. waylon01 on June 28, 2024 at 8:07 am

    “This here’s Rocky, and he aint no puppy” – Joe Dirt

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