MARTIN COUNTY – A man from Palm City bitten by an alligator on Monday in Halpatiokee Regional Park is stable, being treated for non-life threatening injuries to his right torso and thigh.
Robert Bassett, 74, was airlifted to Lawnwood Regional Medical Center & Heart Institute in Fort Pierce after losing control of his bike on a wooden bridge around 11 a.m., landing on a female alligator about 8 feet tall.
Bassett is an “experienced” cyclist, who biked Halpatiokee Park almost every day and was familiar with the trails, said Jeff Maher, friend and owner of Bikes Plus in Palm City.
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“I’ve never seen someone so happy to be on the bike,” Maher said, adding that Bassett visited his store frequently and was always looking to improve his cycling game.
A Martin County Sheriff’s deputy told Maher that Bassett is stable, he said, but does not know the extent of his injuries.
Maher hopes this traumatic incident won’t deter Bassett’s love of the sport, but isn’t sure what repercussions it will have.
“I know that with his enthusiasm and the love of (cycling) he had, it would be difficult to get him off the bike,” Maher said.
Records show Bassett previously owned and operated two businesses in Martin County – Bassett Woodworking, which was dissolved in 2011, and Bassett Home Inspections from 2009 to 2018.
The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission is investigating Monday’s incident.
Bassett was about a mile deep in the park when he fell into a small body of water, about 6 feet from an embankment, and was bitten. He was able to crawl away and a passerby helped rescue him.
What happened to the alligator?
Alligator trapper John Davidson has captured the alligator, weighing around 170 pounds, and is transferring it to a farm near Fort Drum where it will be used for breeding purposes.
Davidson believes the alligator may have had a nest nearby which prompted him to stay close to the area, he said, and was planning to return to the park to look for eggs.
Female alligators are known to guard their nest at all times, and the eggs can be subject to predators such as raccoons and skunks without the protection of the mother.
Davidson is awaiting approval from FWC to return to the site, find the eggs and move them safely.
Alligator attacks are very rare, Davidson said, but females can be particularly aggressive this time of year protecting nests.
Halpatiokee Regional Park is home to many wildlife, surrounded by 470 acres of wetland reserve area. Its name “halpatiokee” is derived from Seminole Indian word meaning “alligator water”.
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