PORT ORANGE, Fla. -- The horrific death of a bulldog by an alligator earlier this week in a Port Orange subdivision before it was trapped and killed, led to the predator's stomach being cut open and revealing identifying part of the dog - bones and hair - a grim reminder of what happens when Florida's wildlife habitat and people and their pets collide.
Losing a pet under these circumstances is devastating. So imagine what it must be like to lose a human.
Nearly 19 years ago, the ultimate horror occurred at Lake Ashby, when ironically a family dog barked as a little boy was being dragged into the pond by a large gator.
The body of the toddler was seen by a hunter being pushed by a gator the next day and the creature was shot three times and killed.
Here's how it was described in a story written nearly two decades ago as a family's picnic outing turned to sheer terror:
One of the family dogs barked Friday as it waited for 3-year-old Adam Trevor Binford to return from picking flowers in Lake Ashby. But Adam never returned. The last thing his mother and 8-year-old brother saw before he disappeared was a big splash. A hysterical Lorri Ann Binford originally told officials she saw an alligator attack her son, but later said she only saw a big splash "too big for a little boy to make."
The March 22, 1997, account of the New Smyrna Beach toddler's death was written by my then-colleague, Molly Justice, on the front page of the Daytona Beach News-Journal, where we both worked at the time as breaking news reporters.
If irony wasn't enough with Monday's gator victim being a dog and a family dog barking after a toddler had been grabbed by a gator nearly two decades ago, both fatal instances involved the same trapper, licensed by the Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission: Curtis Lucas.
Nearly 20 hours after a mysterious splash in a sea of lily pads, the body of a New Smyrna Beach toddler was found in the grip of an 11-foot, 400- to 450-pound alligator Saturday morning. After combing through the murky waters of the 3,200-acre lake all night, Astor trapper Curtis Lucas ended the search with three gunshots shortly after 8 a.m. The alligator died immediately and quickly was implicated in the death of 3-year-old Adam Trevor Binford.
And in both cases, cutting open the dead gator's stomach revealed remains of its prey.
Lucas told reporters today that the bulldog was missing a back leg when it was found Monday by the edge of a man-made lake in the Skylake neighborhood.
The trapper caught and killed the 9-foot male gator two days later and when he cut open the stomach: "I found bones and hair. We got the right gator."
Residents of a lakefront Kendrew Drive home suspected their dog, which had gone missing a week earlier, was the victim of the gator since killed by the trapper, after it was captured in a former quarry, filled with water.