BOYNTON BEACH, Florida — On April 19, 2013, at about 1:30 p.m., six-year–old Joey Welch was attacked by an alligator after falling into shallow water at the edge of the Refuge Lee Road boat ramp on the L-40 canal at the A.R.M. Loxahatchee National Wildlife Refuge just west of Boynton Beach, Florida.
The child’s father, Joseph Welch of Pompano Beach, Fla., and bystanders successfully forced the animal to release the child by hitting and kicking the alligator.
Florida Fish and Wildlife officials say that the child sustained minor injuries (cuts and bruises) to his right arm, shoulder, and chest and was taken by his father to Holy Cross Hospital in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, where he received antibiotics and was released. The father had a bruised his right hand from punching the alligator.
Operating in the interest of public safety, Florida Fish & Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) licensed trappers were dispatched to the scene. The 8-foot long nuisance alligator was captured and killed according to standard operating procedures.
“We are extremely relieved the child made it out of this potentially deadly incident with only minor injuries,” said Rolf Olson, Acting Project Leader of Loxahatchee and Hobe Sound NWR. “This really could have ended very badly. We thank the members of the public who saw this happening and selflessly rushed in to do the right thing.”
“It is a stark reminder that we all have to be careful with animals like alligators,” said Olsen. “They deserve a healthy respect. We encourage all our visitors to be very careful around alligators.”
The refuge is located off U.S. 441/SR 7, two miles south of SR 804 (Boynton Beach Blvd.) and three miles north of SR 806 (Delray Beach’s Atlantic Avenue). The refuge is currently open from 6:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m., seven days a week. Refuge hours change seasonally and are posted at each entrance.
The Visitor Center hours are 9:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m., seven days a week. An entrance fee of $5.00 per vehicle or $1.00 per pedestrian is charged. A variety of annual passes, including a $12.00 refuge specific annual pass, are available. Please visit the refuge website at http://www.fws.gov/Loxahatchee or call the Administration Office at (561) 732-3684.