A massive alligator in Florida was euthanized on Friday after a passerby spotted the reptile carrying human body parts in its jaws, police said.
The Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office said the impressive 13-foot, 8.5-inch (or 4.23 m) alligator was observed as it swam in a canal in Largo, Fla., last week.
The alligator, which was reportedly carrying part of a human torso, was removed from the water after police were alerted.
Police said the alligator was “humanely killed.”
The remains were also discovered by divers and removed from the waterway. The body was identified on Saturday as 41-year-old Sabrina Peckham. The exact cause of Peckham’s death is not yet known. Police are still investigating.
Peckham, who was unhoused, was reprimanded in July for trespassing on county wetlands just blocks away from where her body was discovered, according to court documents.
Jamarcus Bullard told NBC News affiliate WFLA that he witnessed the alligator carrying the body in its mouth.
“I threw a rock at the gator just to see if it was really a gator and like it pulled the body, like it was holding on to the lower part of the torso, and pulled it under the water,” he recounted.
Bullard said he recorded the gruesome sight on his phone, then called authorities.
He watched on as police and wildlife officials tied a rope around the alligator’s neck and used a pulley to reel the reptile out of the water. He said the alligator was shot by authorities, then stretched out on dry land to be measured snout to tail.
The grim discovery has reportedly frightened locals in the area, many of whom said their children often walk by the canal.
Peckham’s daughter Breauna Dorris created a GoFundMe page to help cover her mother’s funeral expenses.
“Sabrina was loved by many and we expected many many more years with her. Our family is in shambles trying to cope with this kind of loss,” Dorris wrote. “Sabrina only being 41 and homeless at the time had no funeral or death arrangements set up. We will be using the funds raised for crematory expenses and laying her to rest in our family plot.”
Over US$8,500 (about C$11,400) has been donated on GoFundMe as of this writing.
Fatal alligator attacks are very rare. The average American alligator can be found in the southeast United States and typically only grows to be between six and 12 feet (1.8 m and 3.7 m) long.
Alligators are not native to Canada.