2 Bitten in Possible First Croc Attack

Couple was kayaking in the Keys when croc flipped boat over

By Ari Odzer and Todd Wright
|  Saturday, Apr 30, 2011  |  Updated 7:51 AM EDT
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A Florida Keys couple is poised to make the history books, although today they are simply celebrating the fact that they are alive.

Mike Gregory and Leigha Poulson may soon hold the dubious distinction of being the first people in the state to ever be attacked by the elusive American crocodile.

"I think it's cool. Kind of made history a little bit," Gregory said. "We're lucky to be alive."

While state officials are trying to confirm the alleged attack, which happened Thursday morning in the Upper Keys, the couple says they have the bite and scratch marks to prove it.

Gregory, 23, and 20-year-old Poulson were kayaking at around 3:30 a.m. after a night of partying when they're vessel was flipped, they said.

As they scrambled to get back to the kayak, each was bitten on the leg. Poulson also suffered scratch marks on her side.

"I was saying how pretty it was out there and I wouldn't want to be anywhere else because I am from Ohio and then the boat just flipped," said Poulson, who moved to the Keys to study marine biology at Florida Keys Community College. "I was screaming 'Oh my God!'" 

Pictures of the attack were sent to the Croc Doc, Frank Mazzotti, a biologist at the University of Florida Research and Education Center in Davie. He said no other animal could have caused such damage.

“That area is almost all crocodiles. On very rare occasions an alligator may stray into there,” Mazzotti said. "Nine out of 10 times it would be a croc in that area. It's possible that it may have been an alligator, but that’s going out on a limb to say that.”

Crocodiles usually roam in the brackish, salt water in the Keys, while alligators set up territory further inland in the fresh water.

Poulson and Gregory thought they might have stumbled on another marine animal that night.

"We thought we might have hit a manatee and gotten bruised up," Gregory told the Florida Keynoter.

"We made it back to the house and we got into the light," he said. "We looked at each other and we’re bleeding like crazy."

American crocodiles were once on the verge of extinction and are still classified as a threatened species.

Unlike people's usual view of the croc based off the prehistoric-looking, aggressive crocodiles of Africa and Australia, American crocs are fairly shy and prefer flight over a fight, Mazzotti said.

He said Thursday's incident wasn't by a man-eating predator, but a scared reptile who was minding its own business.

"I wouldn't describe it as an attack. It was an escape attempt by the crocodile,” Mazzotti said. "They are not grabbing you to eat you. They are giving a warning, 'Don’t mess with me.'"

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