A Florida kayaker considers herself twice lucky after the kayak she was paddling in was attacked by a large alligator in the Everglades. Although the waters are swarming with alligators, snakes and other animals, such attacks are very rare.
Sarah Boynton, 52, was paddling the waters of the Arthur R. Marshall Loxahatchee National Wildlife Refuge where gators can get up to 16 feet long when the animal abruptly latched onto her boat.
The experienced kayaker, who got lost while trying to follow a canoe trail in part of the Everglades on Saturday, described how the alligator bit into her inflatable kayak and tried to do a death roll.
'All I remember is looking down and going, "Hmm. That’s a big square head. Hmm. That’s not a small alligator",' Ms. Boynton told ABC News.
Boynton said she couldn't be sure of the animal's size but Asst. Park Manager Rolf Olson said he suspects it may have been an 8- to 10-foot female gator known to hang out in that very same trail with her young.
Because of it being a suspected case of a mother protecting her babies, "We're not going to remove the alligator," he told the Daily news.
Boynton believes that her kayak being an inflatable saved her from a much worse fate. She was quick to thank Gumotex Innova, the manufacturer of her Swing kayak: “I wanted to thank you because as far as I’m concerned, being in an inflatable saved me from potential injury. I think if a gator had hit a hard shell kayak with as much force as it hit my Swing, I would have been tipped into the water. As it was, the other 2 air chambers stayed completely inflated and after the darn gator was done chewing and spinning around with its mouth full of deflated rubber, I was able to paddle quite a distance away and call for help”. The only help immediately available to her was her cellphone, which she frantically used to dial 911.
"There's two very large alligators out here!" Boynton is heard in her desperate call obtained by ABC. “I pulled myself up on top of grass," she told 911, "but as I said, there's two really big alligators in here and I'm just sitting here now."
It took airboats for rescuers to reach Boynton who was estimated to be about a quarter-mile from a popular Lee Road dock. She told ABC she feared she could become trapped overnight if she hadn't had her phone with her or had lost service.
"I got very anxious and was very shaken up because what if I was still out there? I let my primal fear take over," she said.
She believes the alligator attacked because she had paddled near a nest. Lieutenant Geoffrey Wade, who helped rescue the kayaker, said: “She was very panicked, frantic. We told her to calm down.” He added that although they often had to deal with people getting attacked by snakes, gator attacks were not common. “She was very lucky to survive this ordeal,” he commented.
After contacting Gumotex Innova with news of her experience, thanking them for making the quality boat that saved her from a worse outcome and lamenting how much she’d loved the kayak even though she’d only had it for a month, another bit of luck was in store for Sarah. The manufacturer said they would be “replacing the partially eaten boat (despite the fact that attacks by carnivorous predators are not covered by our warranty).”
Sarah will do her best to keep her next Swing far from the jaws of any large predators.