MOORE HAVEN — An alligator at least 10 feet long lunged at a teenager swimming in a river and bit off the teen's right arm below the elbow, state wildlife officials said Tuesday.
Kaleb Langdale, 17, survived the encounter Monday in the Caloosahatchee River west of Lake Okeechobee. Wildlife officers who caught and killed the alligator retrieved the arm, but doctors were unable to reattach it.
"We found the alligator that was responsible," Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission spokesman Jorge Pino said. "We were able to kill the alligator and dissect the alligator, remove the arm and transport the arm to the hospital to see if the doctors could reattach the limb."
The teen was in good condition Tuesday at Lee Memorial Hospital in Fort Myers, and his friends told Fort Myers television station WBBH that while the arm could not be reattached, Langdale was in good spirits.
The alligator went straight for Langdale as he was swimming, Matt Baker said.
"It came at him and he put his arm in the way instead of letting it get to his body. It took his arm and him under," Baker said.
Another friend said Langdale popped out of the water shortly after being bitten.
"He was waving saying, 'Call the paramedics! My arm is gone!' " Gary Beck said.
Wildlife officers warn that alligators can call just about any body of water in Florida home.
"Anything that makes any splash in the water or any little commotion in the water may attract them to that particular location," Pino said.
It's rare for wild alligators to bite humans, though, he said. Wildlife officials were investigating what caused the alligator to bite Langdale.