LAKELAND, Fla., June 7 (UPI) — Authorities in Central Florida are trying to identify a man who turned up dead — and his body ended up inside an alligator’s mouth on Tuesday.
Authorities in Lakeland, about 35 miles east of Tampa, said they received a 911 call from an eyewitness who told them an alligator was walking around with the body of an adult male in its mouth. When officers arrived, they found the reptile still clutching the body in its jaws as it swam across a lake.
The alligator eventually let go of the corpse but police were not able to immediately identify who it belonged to.
Authorities accounted for everyone living at a nearby senior residential community, but weren’t quite sure where it came from.
Officials said it appeared the man hadn’t been freshly killed. They believe it had been decomposing in the lake for at least a day by the time the alligator found it.
Lakeland police Sgt. Gary B. Gross said in a post to Twitter Tuesday that Florida wildlife officials responded to the scene to search for the alligator, and perhaps trap it.
“It appears, prematurely, that maybe this body was [already] in the lake,” Gross said. “Our crime scene [technicians] will recover the body and take it to the morgue.”
Witnesses told police that while the body was in the animal’s mouth it appeared to be missing an arm and a leg. Police are looking into the possibility that the man was attacked by the alligator.
“If they trap the gator, [they will] try to figure out if they can do a test on that gator and see if there’s any human parts in that gators stomach,” Gross said.
Officials said there are two alligators that keep showing up in Lake Hunter, but neither has been captured. The reptiles are a common sight in most parts of Florida.