Duck hunter bitten by alligator in Everglades

FORT LAUDERDALE, FLA. (WSVN) - A man remains at the hospital recovering from surgery one day after, officials said, he was bitten by an alligator while hunting for ducks in the Everglades, in Palm Beach County, Friday afternoon.

According to Broward Sheriff Fire Rescue, the 50-year-old victim, a Coral Springs resident, bumped into the large reptile while hunting with a friend near the Holey Land Wildlife Management Area, just after 2 p.m.

Roberto Gautier, the friend who was accompanying the victim, identified him as Krit Kruchiyan. He said they were wading through the water with their kayaks when Kruchiyan kicked something he thought was a log but turned out to be an alligator measuring 8 to 10 feet in length. “All I saw was its mouth open,” said Gautier. “That’s all I saw.”

The animal then sank its teeth into Kruchiyan’s left thigh. “His reaction was, ‘Oh, my God, it bit me,'” said Gautier.

“That alligator apparently bit into his leg and started to roll,” said Broward Sheriff Fire Rescue spokesperson Mike Jachles.

Gautier said he tried to free his friend from the alligator’s grip. “I was behind him. When I saw him, I saw the alligator’s mouth, so I tried to push the kayak in between him and the alligator,” he said.

The reptile then loosened its grip on Kruchiyan. “Fortunately, for whatever reason, that alligator let go,” said Jachles.

Gautier then took his friend out of harm’s way. “He was trying to get out of the water, and we struggled a little bit to get composure, put him on the kayak, and we got ourselves out of the water,” he said.

Two other hunters, off-duty Hollywood Firefighters Michael Donadio and Paul Burton, heard the commotion. “We heard a loud scream from behind us, thrashing around, and it kind of went silent,” said Donadio.

Michael Donadio, Paul Burton
Michael Donadio, Paul Burton

Burton said Kruchiyan had a nasty gash on his leg. “On his upper thigh, it was bleeding pretty bad, so I ended up cutting the rest of his waders off,” he said. “I guess his buddy had started it, and I got his waders off and used his belt on the waders to tie up the tourniquet.”

The first responders drove Kruchiyan to Mile Marker 38 on U.S. 27, where EMTs met them. From there, the injured hunter was airlifted to Broward Health Medical Center for treatment.

7News cameras captured the rescue helicopter leaving the hospital moments after the victim was brought inside.

Officials said the hunter’s injury did not go through the muscle, and he was taken to the hospital to help prevent an infection. “When we treated him, he was in good condition. He appeared to sustain a flesh wound to the left thigh,” said Jachles. “The bleeding was controlled, we treated the victim, and we airlifted him as a precaution.”

Gautier said he and the victim have hunted together for more than a decade but had never dealt with anything like this. “You don’t go there expecting to get bitten, but you know that there’s a possibility that you could get bitten, ’cause they’re there,” he said.

Jachles said Kruchiyan’s injuries could have been far more severe. “It could have been much worse,” he said. “We’ve seen what alligators can do, the damage they can cause, and they’re just acting on instinct.”

Wildlife experts said the incident illustrates the need for Everglades visitors to observe caution when hunting in the park. “It’s very fortunate if he got away with needing a few stitches and maybe a couple of puncture wounds cleaned,” said Ron Magill of Zoo Miami. “An alligator that size, people say maybe it’s not that big, but it’s big, and it’s very powerful.”

The victim is spending the night at the hospital and is expected to be released sometime Saturday.

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