The 47-year-old entered the water in John S Taylor Park in Largo on Tuesday where people are warned by signs not to swim and to beware of alligators.
“At this time, detectives believe the victim was looking for frisbees in the water and a gator was involved,” Largo police said.
The 53-acre lake where the unidentified man died is next to a disc golf course – where players throw frisbees at targets.
People who frequent the course said it is not unusual for someone to look for lost discs that can be sold for a few dollars.
“Sometimes they dive in the lakes, they’ll pull out 40 discs. You may sell them for five bucks a piece, and you may sell them for 10 bucks a piece, depending on the quality”,Ken Hostnick, 56, told the Tampa Bay Times.
The man was a “transient” who made a living by selling the drisbees to people who played disc golf at a course that runs parallel to the lake, and “he died as a result of an alligator attack,” Paul Cozzie, director of Parks and Conservation Resources in Pinellas County, said in a telephone interview with the New York Times.
“It appears that he went in before the park opened — unfortunately not a good time to be in any lake, but especially during alligator mating season,” Mr. Cozzie said. He called it “a mistake that appears to have cost him his life.”
Someone who was in the park around 8 am saw the body on the bank of the lake with one of its arms severed, Mr Cozzie said.
Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission said a contracted specialist was working to remove an alligator from the lake “and efforts will be made to determine if it was involved in this situation”.
Police are telling people to avoid the lake while the investigation continues.
If confirmed, this would be the first fatal alligator attack in Florida since 2019, although people and animals have been bitten.
Wildlife officials stress that no one should approach a wild alligator or feed them, because the reptiles then associate people with food.
Once considered endangered animals in Florida, alligators have since flourished and can be found almost anywhere in the state.