Nine-foot Alligator Bites 68-year-old South Carolina Woman Walking Her Dog, Causes 'Life-Changing' Injuries

An alligator bit a 68-year-old South Carolina woman on Monday night while she was walking her dog, leaving her with injuries to her arms and legs, according to officials.

The attack occurred at around 10 p.m. in Sun City, Beaufort County. The woman was walking by a pond close to her home, the county Sheriff's Office said.

Officers said that the animal bit the woman on her wrist, hand and legs but did not reveal the extent of her injuries, ABC News reported.

However, an official from the Bluffton Township Fire District—which responded to the incident—indicated that her wounds may have been significant.

"Unfortunately, we did find an adult patient that had engaged in some capacity with a gator," Captain Lee Levesque told WTOC. "While we wouldn't say they were life-threatening injuries, they were certainly life-changing."

Following the incident, the woman was taken to Memorial Health University Medical Center in Savannah, Georgia, where she remains.

Alligator attacks are rare in this area. Nevertheless, the sheriff's office reminded residents to be vigilant when walking near ponds or lagoons, particularly in the evenings.

"Though these type of incidents are infrequent, we urge Beaufort County residents and guests to be mindful of alligators and to please be careful when walking near ponds and lagoons—especially at night when visibility is limited," the office said in a statement provided to ABC News on Tuesday. "As of this afternoon, the injured woman remains hospitalized in Savannah. We extend our prayers and thoughts for her speedy recovery."

Levesque said that the Bluffton Fire District only responds to about one alligator attack such as this every year.

"In our experience, there's not a trend," Levesque said. "We surely look at those to see if there is a preventive message or effort that we can put forth to help folks avoid those scenarios. The unfortunate truth is they are wild animals, and wild indicates the fact that there is no trend there is no way."

The South Carolina Department of Natural Resources (SCDNR) said they managed to capture a 9-foot-long alligator shortly after the attack near the woman's home. While the department could not confirm that this alligator was the one responsible for the bites, the animal did match the victim's description and was subsequently euthanized.

"I've never heard of attacks before, but you got to be careful," Sun City resident Michael Smith told WTOC, describing his shock at the incident. "There's wild animals out there."

In North America, alligators are found across a relatively large range covering all of Florida and Louisiana, as well as large parts of Texas, Arkansas, Alabama, Georgia and the Carolinas.

"Incidents of people being bitten are extremely rare, and fatalities even more so," David Lucas, a spokesperson for the SCDNR, told Newsweek. "In South Carolina a lady was killed last year in the Sea Pines Community on Hilton Head while walking her dog near a pond there. In 2016, an elderly lady wandered away from a nursing home and fell into a pond. She had injuries consistent with alligator bites, though it was unclear if she had drowned first or not. Prior to that, we had not had an alligator-related fatality in several decades."

"In 2009, a man on a golf course was bitten while trying to retrieve his ball from a pond and lost an arm," he said. "Earlier this year, a man was found with bite marks in a pond at Kiawah Island, but the autopsy found that he died of natural causes prior to coming in contact with the alligator."

While fatal attacks are rare, experts say that dangerous interactions between humans and alligators may be happening more frequently as we encroach further into their habitat, TIME reported.

"We always emphasize that people should NEVER feed alligators or throw things in the water that they might associate with food—anything that splashes seems like fish to an alligator," Lucas said. "In fact, some of our signage bears the legend: 'A fed gator is a dead gator.'"

This article was updated to include comments from David Lucas.

An alligator in Hilton Head Island, South Carolina. Streeter Lecka/Getty Images