BUSHNELL, Fla. (WOFL FOX 35) - Florida Fish and Wildlife officers say a Sumter County man was bitten by a nearly 9-foot alligator Tuesday evening. It happened along County Road 311, in Bushnell.
Reginald Blanton said all he could do was watch helplessly through the fence at his home, as the 300-pound gator champed down on his step-son, Jackie Hildreth, 58. “Oh, it was terrifying! God,” said Blanton. “I didn’t know what was going to happen.”
Blanton told deputies that a neighbor helped pull Hildreth away from the gator. Blanton told deputies Hildreth was still in the gator’s mouth. “All I done was just seen the gator lunge at him, and grab him,” Blanton said.
The Sumter County Sheriff’s Office report said Hildreth was bitten in the upper thigh and right calf, leaving a very large open injury. “It pulled the meat right away from the bone,” Blanton said.
Hildreth was rushed to the hospital in Ocala. FWC investigated the incident on Wednesday morning. “He’s doing pretty good. They’re keeping him under,” Blanton said. “He’s real lucky.”
Blanton's had a problem with alligators terrorizing his livestock. He said he saw his horses running from something that seemed to be bothering them. Tuesday night, he saw the alligator in the pasture, and shot it twice with a 9mm handgun. He said his step-son thought the deed was done. “He walked right up to the gator, because the gator was laying down. He thought it was dead,” Blanton said.
FWC spokesman Greg Workman said the alligator that bit Hildreth was captured and put down.
The Sheriff's Office report said two deputies got between the alligator and Hildreth, with guns pointed at the reptile, and eventually moved a patrol car between the gator and Hildreth.
Captain Kevin Hofecker, with the Sheriff’s Office said this is the first time in a while that a gator’s bitten someone in Sumter County. “If it’s a nuisance, or anyone feels it’s a nuisance, call the professionals and let the professionals evaluate it and handle the situation.”
Blanton added, “I don’t want to run into no more. I know they’re in all the ponds.” He said he is thankful his step-son is alive.