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10-Foot Gator Shot After Killing Little Girl

June 6, 1988

ENGLEWOOD, Fla. (AP) _ A 10 1/2 -foot alligator lunged from a residential lake, seized a 4-year- old girl who was wading with her brother and a friend and dragged her to her death.

Game officers spotted the alligator on the bank of Hidden Lake around midnight carrying the limp body of Erin Glover in its jaws. The reptile was immediately shot to death with a .357-caliber Magnum pistol, said Stephen Condit, Red Cross disaster services director.

The girl’s body was recovered, he said.

Since 1948, there have been 95 unprovoked alligator attacks in Florida, with five previous deaths, said game commission Lt. Jim Farrior.

″An autopsy of the alligator was performed on the scene and determined it to be the (alligator that killed her),″ Charlotte County dispatcher John Kefer said Sunday. He did not know what aspect of the autopsy identified the reptile as the killer.

Erin was walking along the lake’s south shore with her brother Justin, 8, their dog, and neighbor Jason Kershanick, 9, at 6:30 p.m. Saturday when the gator bolted from the water and snapped up the girl in its teeth.

Jason said Sunday that the children were walking in ankle-deep water.

″The little girl was throwing rocks and kicking the water. While she was kicking, she must have kicked the alligator. Right when she stopped kicking, the alligator jumped up out of the water and started biting her two times in the stomach,″ Jason said. ″Then he dropped her and she crawled away, and then he got out of the water more and grabbed her from the back and went in the water.″

″After it happened, then we ran,″ he added. ″It was pretty quick. It seemed like a nightmare, a dream. But then the way she screamed, when I saw the blood after he went in, then I realized it was real.″

Alligators tend to pull their prey underwater, drowning them and stashing the body for later feeding.

Wayne Kershanick went to the lake with a pistol after his son alerted him.

″I saw it taking her off to the other side″ of the lake, Kershanik said. ″I tried to track it through the weeds, but by the time I got there he went under with her, and that was the last I seen of him.″

Neighbor Nolan Jesse said he had heard Erin’s mother screaming and took a rifle to the lake. He said he saw a large alligator surface with a light- colored object in its mouth.

″It was within rifle range but I was afraid to shoot because of the object,″ Jesse said.

The gator was spotted after five divers had searched the lake and weeds surrounded by the Gardens of Gulf Cove development while six Florida Game and Fresh Water Fish Commission officers and several deputies and emergency workers walked the land. The area is about 25 miles south of Sarasota on Florida’s west coast.

″It was a shock. It will be a while getting over it,″ Erin’s stepfather, Ty Bowns, said outside the family’s house.

″All the kids around here played around all these lakes. I don’t think anybody took the alligators all that seriously.″

Justin was staying with neighbors after the incident.

Kershanick’s wife, Charlotte, said nothing had been done about past alligator complaints.

″A lot of them are aggravated because they’ve complained about the alligators being here, but nobody does anything,″ she said. ″They ought to have the ponds fenced in.″

Alligators once were vigorously hunted and their population dwindled in Florida. They were made a protected species in the mid-1960s.

But in the past few years, it has become clear that the species is in no danger of extinction, said Farrior.

State wildlife experts estimate there are 1 million alligators on 6.7 million acres of land.

On Sept. 1, for the first time since 1962, the state will hold a one-month gator hunt in which no more than 3,000 are to be taken.

″They occupy pretty much any body of water that would look like an alligator lives there, and lots that don’t,″ Farrior said.

Last year, 3,853 gators were killed because they were declared a nuisance, threatening children and livestock.

The attack on Erin was the third gator attack on the Gulf Coast in the past six months. Both previous victims survived the attacks.

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