A Florida woman who fended off a large alligator nearly as big as her 10-foot paddleboard said the beast “came straight” at her.
Vicki Baker, a 60-year-old interior design consultant from Ocala, posted terrifying clips last week on Facebook of her encounter with the large alligator that “tried to eat” her board during her visit to Silver Springs State Park.
She recounted to WUFT how the monster reptile came within inches of her and “hissed loudly.”
“I was afraid,” Baker told the outlet. “You can hear it in my voice that I was really scared. I’ve seen them my whole life and have never been afraid.”
Swimming isn’t allowed at Silver Springs, but visitors can use paddleboards, kayaks and canoes to spot many types of wildlife, including alligators, turtles, manatees and even monkeys.
Baker said the frightening encounter lasted less than five minutes and that the beast steered clear of everyone else.
“We had just decided to eat lunch while taking pictures of the blue hole, and that gator came out of nowhere,” Baker recalled in her first extensive interview. “He came straight for my board.”
In one 66-second video, Baker said she believed someone had been feeding the animal, making him potentially dangerous to the public.
“Why are you messing with me?” Baker said on the clip. “Why are you trying to bite me? What the heck, man! I’ve never had a gator come after me like that before … look how close he is to me! He came after me and tried to bite my paddleboard.”
The gator was unmoved by Baker’s attempt to shoo it away, prompting her to use her paddle to fend it off at one point, leading it to hiss at her, another clip shows.
“Oh my God, I had to push him away with me paddle,” Baker said.
An employee at the park then told Baker to back up, saying she had just made the animal “pretty mad,” the clip shows.
State wildlife officials are still deciding what to do about the alligator. The Department of Environmental Protection and the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission have launched formal probes on the incident, WUFT reported.
“We didn’t have an officer on scene, so right now we are going to have to conduct an investigation and interview witnesses to kind of paint the picture of what actually took place,” FWC spokesman Chad Weber told the outlet.
A wildlife biologist at the University of Florida, Sidney Godfrey, said she couldn’t make any conclusions from the clip alone.
“That animal probably had a lot of previous human interaction, people probably feeding it,” Godfrey told WUFT. “They get too close to people and you have encounters like that.”
The beast may ultimately be removed like nuisance alligators are plucked from residential areas, but Baker said she hopes it survives whatever its fate may be.
“I don’t want to see it killed,” Baker said.