JACKSON, Miss. — A licensed trapper is recovering from surgery after he was mauled by a 12-foot alligator in Mississippi.
A vehicle had struck and injured the alligator in Hancock County west of Gulfport on June 25, according to Ricky Flynt, alligator program coordinator for the Mississippi Department of Wildlife, Fisheries, and Parks. Local law enforcement officers were called to the scene.
"They contacted Craig Breland," Flynt said. "He is one of our licensed agent alligator trappers."
Breland arrived at the scene to secure and remove the injured animal, but things went wrong.
"When he was attempting to secure the alligator, his foot slipped," Flynt said. "He landed right next to the alligator's head."
Already in a defensive mode from his injuries, the gator grabbed Breland by the shoulder and chest and began shaking him violently from side to side. The alligator eventually released Breland, and he was able to roll away from the reptile.
"He sustained some serious injuries to his chest, shoulder and right arm," Flynt said. "He had significant trauma to the pectoral part of his chest and the inside portion of his right arm.
"Fortunately, he had no broken bones. Had the alligator rolled with him, it would have been much worse."
Flynt said Breland was treated and later released, but underwent surgery recently to remove some tissue. Flynt said after receiving a report on the incident, his thoughts immediately went to a bacteria called aeromonas hydrophila.
"That was my first concern when I heard about it and talked to Craig," Flynt said. "There have been several people, for instance, in Florida where the person attacked died from bacteria even though they had insignificant trauma.
"That is a bacteria associated with many animals that live in wetland environments."
Not only is the bacteria deadly, it only responds to specific antibiotics and even when the correct antibiotics are administered, the threat is still there.
"Even under good medical care, there are significant risks associated with this bacteria," Flynt said.
Although the gator bit Breland, Flynt does not consider it an attack. Flynt said there has never been a documented attack on a human by an alligator in Mississippi.
"We don't call this an attack," Flynt said. "An attack is unprovoked.
"This was provoked. The alligator was acting in a natural defense."
Flynt also said the incident points to the dangers the trappers face in their line of work.
"It's a risk they take on with every alligator they deal with," Flynt said. "They do take on serious risks in their duties."