Zoo visitors rescue alligator handler after attack
Visitors to a Utah reptile and bird petting zoo came to the rescue of a handler who was bitten and yanked into an enclosure by one of the facility’s alligators.
Video of the Saturday incident at Scales and Tails Utah in West Valley City, located about 11 miles southwest of Salt Lake City, showed a handler approach the gator after opening the enclosure as families with kids watched.
The gator quickly grabbed onto the woman’s hand and pulled her into the enclosure, as seen in video captured by Theresa Wiseman and shared with local ABC affiliate KTVX.
Wiseman’s husband, Donnie, then yelled for help, telling KTVX that the handler instructed him to jump on top of the gator.
“It took everybody a second to realize what was going on and I saw it happen and I was like ‘What do you want me to do? What do you want me to do?’ and I see him rolling and I was like ‘oh,’ ” Donnie Wiseman told the local news outlet.
After Wiseman sat on the gator’s back for about a minute, the handler was able to remove her arm from its mouth, after which another visitor, Todd Christopher, pulled the woman out of the enclosure.
Wiseman was eventually able to turn the gator around before standing up and escaping the enclosure, as Christopher’s wife, Amy, who has a nursing background, treated the handler.
The zoo in a post on its Facebook page thanked the visitors for springing into action and helping the staff member.
“Working with some of these animals has inherent risks that we as the staff accept,” it wrote.
“Yesterday, the sort of event that we hope never happens happened,” the statement added.
“These gentleman could have stayed in the safety zone as most of us would, but instead jumped into the situation, of their own volition, and helped secure the alligator.”
“Their help, combined with the training of our staff member, probably saved her life and her limbs,” the zoo continued, adding thanks for Amy Christopher for providing first aid before first responders arrived at the scene.
In an update Monday, the zoo said that the trainer had undergone surgery and was being treated with antibiotics, and would be able to fully use her hand.
Shane Richins, the zoo’s owner, said in an interview with The Associated Press Monday that the handler had opened the enclosure as part of normal procedures to begin feeding the alligator, adding that the reptile “got a little extra spunky.”
Richins added that the company will require a second handler to be nearby during any interactions with a gator.
Source: The Hill