Florida alligators are normally shy and avoid humans whenever possible, rarely attacking people. That's what made Alan Abele's encounter with one of the reptiles so unusual.
Abele, 68, is a winter time resident of Dunnellon familiar with the wildlife around his home. But in his 20 years living there, he's never seen an alligator on his property.
"I was roused out of sleep by a sound I can only describe as a home invasion," said Abele, who heard the noise around 3 a.m. Tuesday morning. "I grabbed a .357 magnum and a flashlight."
Suspecting a burglar, Abele said he called out to the stranger on his patio saying he was armed and had called police. But the banging noise continued.
"Large crockery being thrown around and a door sound as if were being ripped off its hinges," Abele said. By the time he reached the door, he realized it wasn't a person at all, but a six foot alligator.
"Out of the dark this thing comes at you like some monstrosity," Abele said. "Enraged alligator, white mouth wide open, literally launched itself at me."
Abele said at that point he had no choice but to defend himself.
"Brought the weapon down, pulled the trigger, and I can distinctly recall a white muzzle flash enveloping the head of this alligator and we're face to face at this point," said Abele.
The gunshot killed the reptile, but Abele fired a second shot "just to make sure."
Abele said if he knew beforehand that it was an alligator at his patio door, he'd have brought his shotgun instead.
The Marion County Sheriff's Office called the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, which dispatched agents to remove the animal. FWC officials said it's illegal to kill alligators without a permit because they are a federally protected species. But in this case, Abele had the right to defend himself.
"I feel sorry for shooting an alligator," Abele said.