State wildlife officials say they believe a 12-foot long, 504-pound alligator they captured and killed in the Slidell, Louisiana area is the one that attacked and killed 71-year-old Timothy Satterlee on his property shortly after Hurricane Ida.
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St. Tammany Parish Sheriff's Office spokesman Capt. Lance Vitter says the alligator had human remains in its digestive system.
It was the day after Hurricane Ida made landfall when Satterlee went to check on his belongings in a shed below their elevated home near Lake Pontchartrain. The area is known to be home to several alligators, though most are described as in the seven-foot range, not the 12-footer captured this morning.
Capt. Vitter said Satterlee's wife heard a ruckus and went to see what was happening.
"She said that he went down to the shed underneath the raised house to check on some stuff in his shed," said Capt. Vitter. "She heard the ruckus and then when she opened the door and looked down, he was being attacked by the alligator."
Vitter says the wife pulled the man up out of the water, and seeing the severity of his injuries, went to call for help. But she had to leave the scene to get the call out.
"It was very hard for her to contact us, initially," said Vitter. But when deputies arrived, all they found was a lot of blood, but no victim. The man was gone.
"There was no body," said Vitter. "But they could see signs of blood where a man was attacked."
In the weeks since then, the sheriff's office, working with state and federal wildlife partners, have been searching the area for an alligator large enough to have attacked a human.
"This past weekend U.S. Wildlife agents observed a large alligator in a waterway near where the incident occurred," said Vitter. "Deputies and agents, with the assistance of two Louisiana Department of Wildlife licensed nuisance hunters, Phillip Mc Clurke and Eric Dumas, set traps to catch the alligator."
Investigators will work with the St. Tammany Parish Coroner's Office to verify if the remains found in the alligator are Satterlee's, the sheriff's office said.
"This is a horrible tragedy and my sincere condolences and sympathy goes to the Satterlee family," said Sheriff Randy Smith. "I know todays findings does not bring their loved one back, but hopefully this can bring them some sort of closure. I am very proud of the hard, non-stop work, of my deputies and the other agencies who assisted, and I hope their persistence in finding this alligator will help the family with coping with their loss. We will continue to keep them in our prayers."