Florida Man Attacked by Alligator That Tried to Drag Him Under Water Escapes by Gouging its Eye

A Florida man is recovering after being attacked by an 8-foot alligator that bit down on his leg and attempted to drag him into a canal.

Mark Johnson, 61, was walking his golden retriever Rex close to the bank of a canal in Port St. Lucie last Sunday when the gator lunged from the water and took him by surprise, clamping down on the bottom of his right leg, TCPalm reported.

According to the victim, the animal's powerful jaws grabbed hold of his leg after his foot slipped on a muddy bank. He said it tried to drag him under the water and only loosened its grip after he made the split-second decision to gouge its eye.

"This gator was coming in fast. He was aggressive," he told local media outlet WPTV. "My foot was hanging out of the corner of his mouth. He starts clamping down pretty tight and he started to pull, and the next thing I do, is instantly, you know, here's my fingers, I poke [in the eye.] I had to do something."

The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission said a trapper went to the area and removed an alligator that was about 8-foot long, and weighed close to 250 pounds. The animal was humanely euthanized after being captured, officials said.

Johnson, who received more than 60 stitches to his leg and finger after being treated at St. Lucie Medical Center. He told TCPalm his dog was not injured.

"When [FWC officials] told me how big it was, I'll admit, I teared up a little bit," Johnson told local media, saying he had not been aware the predator was so large.

"When your whole leg is in the jaws of a gator, you're not thinking size, you're thinking survival. I knew he was bigger than me. Well, the realization hit me today at how lucky I was. He was 8 feet 6. It's really hitting me now at how fortunate I am.

"You're talking seconds before a gator that size begins his death roll, tearing flesh, you know. That eight to 10 seconds will be burned in my mind the rest of my life."

Johnson said he doesn't blame the animal but, reflecting on the danger, had a warning for others. "It's important for people to understand how dangerous alligators are," he said. "If I had been a small child or pet, I wouldn't have had a chance."

The FWC said there had been two additional major gator attacks in the past month—a 41-year-old who was bitten while alligator hunting August 20 and a 27-year-old woman who was attacked in her yard. The agency has been contacted for comment.

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An alligator looks on during the final round of the RBC Heritage on June 21, 2020 at Harbour Town Golf Links in Hilton Head Island, South Carolina. A massive gator attacked a 61-year-old Florida man on September 13, 2020, in Port St. Lucie. Sam Greenwood/Getty