The encounter is being called, “a stark reminder that we all have to be careful with animals like alligators. They deserve a healthy respect.’’
Joseph Welch, of Pompano Beach, Florida, had planned a relaxing canoe trip through the Northern Everglades Wildlife Refuge with his 6-year-old son Joey, on Friday afternoon. But the father-son afternoon turned into a tug-of war for Joey’s life before they ever got on the water. According to the Miami Herald, Welch was paying for the canoe rental while his son walked toward the boat ramp, and then accidentally fell into the shallow water at the edge of the everglades.
Welch told the Herald he believes the gator must have been in the tall grass near the bank because he “heard the splash and a ‘blood-curdling scream’ almost at the same time.” The Herald reports:
He reacted on instinct, sprinting into the water, grabbing his son from behind with his left arm and hitting the gator as hard as he could with his right — hard enough to bruise and cut his own hand. But the gator held fast and Welch was worried about pulling back too hard. “I didn’t want to get into a tug of war with the alligator because I was afraid my son would lose his arm,” he said.
The commotion attracted bystanders, including one man who yelled for Welch to carry his son toward the land where the gator would be more exposed. As he staggered out of the water, gator still clamped tight, the other man — Welch did not get his name — landed some solid kicks to the gator’s belly until the reptile finally let go.
Joey was treated at Fort Lauderdale’s Holy Cross Hospital for some minor abrasions and bruising, but according to Welch he has “recovered well,” has had no trouble sleeping, and even returned to school on Monday.
The 8-foot alligator was later caught by a FWC trapper and killed, which according to the US Fish and Wildlife Service is “standard procedure for any reptile involved in an attack on a human.” USFWS is also investigating the incident.
Rolf Olson, who is the acting project leader of the Loxahatchee refuge in western Palm Beach County said, “We are extremely relieved the child made it out of this potentially deadly incident with only minor injuries. This really could have ended very badly.”
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