PLANT CITY — A deputy shot an alligator in the head as the animal swam toward the body of a man who was found dead Wednesday night at the edge of a lake, authorities said.
The gator disappeared and remains on the loose.
The incident happened in Edward Medard Park, where a ranger found a man lying dead on the lake's shore just after 7 p.m., authorities said. The man, later identified as Larry Webb, 70, of Lithia was found near a fishing pole and tackle box. There were no signs of trauma to his body, which was partially submerged Hillsborough County sheriff's officials said.
As the ranger and deputies awaited the arrival of the medical examiner, they noticed several alligators in the water. The animals increased their numbers as the sun set.
One alligator, about 6 to 8 feet long, began to swim in circles near Webb, authorities said. After a moment, the gator swam directly toward the body.
Fearing what might happen next, a deputy pulled out his gun and fired a round, authorities said. The bullet hit the animal's skull behind its right eye. The gator then dropped below the surface and disappeared.
The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission was notified of the incident.
Webb's cause of death was undetermined, pending an autopsy.