The 9-foot alligator seen with a human body in its jaws on Tuesday has been captured and found to have human remains in its stomach.
“A contract trapper for the state caught and killed a 9-foot alligator last night around 8:30,” Sgt. Gary Gross of the Lakeland Police Department tells PEOPLE. “The medical examiner examined the contents of its stomach this morning and found human remains that match the missing parts of the body. ” On Tuesday afternoon, a witness called 911 to report that he had seen the alligator with what appeared to be a dead body in its mouth in Lake Hunter in Lakeland, Florida. “I’ve got a dead body over here in the lake it looks like an alligator is trying to pull him down under,” the caller said.
Sgt. Gross said the reptile released the body shortly after police responded to the scene.“He rolled a few times in the water and then let go [of the body] and swam off,” he said.
Police then retrieved the body while the Florida wildlife and game commission dispatched alligator trappers to attempt to catch the gator. The gator was caught on Tuesday night and the contents of its stomach were examined Wednesday. Gross says the cause of death of the victim, a white male whose body appeared to have been in the water “for more than a day” is still under investigation. “We havenâ€™t determined manner or cause of death because of the body parts that are missing and the decomposition from the water,” Gross explains. An autopsy has been completed and results of the toxicology report could take up to a month. While there are no open missing persons cases in the area, Gross says a few items have been retrieved from the lake that could be related to the case. “There was a backpack we found at the boat ramp and other items around the lake like a shirt but we don’t know if they’re tied with this or not,” he says. “People fish here a lot and they often leave things behind. ”
Alligators are a common sighting at Lake Hunter and are not known to be particularly aggressive. “It’s a very fine line to call them aggressive because our alligators are known to sun themselves on the bank,” Gross says. “Every once in a while you get a call that one of them is charging somebody or trying to get their pet but very few are aggressive unless you agitate them in some way.”
Gross added that the alligators in the area may be more aggressive than usual during their mating season, which runs from April to late June. On Wednesday, the Lakeland Police returned to Lake Hunter to respond to a call about another alligator seen with something in its jaws. “The caller thought maybe it was more human remains, but it turned out to be a cat,” Gross says.