Outdoor Life Online Editor

May 19, 2004-In Deltona, Florida, 12-year-old Malcolm Locke was swimming in Lake Diana, according to the Associated Press, when he saw 7-foot alligator swimming toward him. He tried to swim quickly for shore but the alligator clamped down on his head and dragged him underwater.

According the Florida Fish and Game Commission more than 200 unprovoked alligator attacks on humans have been documented since 1948, with 12 resulting in fatalities. Locke was going to be the unlucky 13th, so he fought and punched as the alligator started to roll.

A century of unrestricted and unregulated hunting had depleted most accessible alligator populations in Florida. Even after the passage of state regulations governing the harvest of alligators during the 1940s and 1950s, alligator populations continued to decline due to extensive poaching. It was not until 1970, when federal laws prohibited the interstate shipment of alligators, that these reptiles made a comeback.

In 1988, Florida started its first heavily regulated alligator season, due to complaints about 1,000-pound gators pulling people into the depths of swamps and canals. Sportsmen currently harvest about 2,500 alligators per year in Florida.

But still this light hunting pressure isn’t enough to halt a growing population. Aalligators can appear in any golf course pond or residential lake via miles of canals, streams and swamps.

The alligator that grabbed Locke was such an animal. Locke didn’t expect it to be in the lake and foolishly took a risk. Locke, however, proved tougher than the gator, and fought it off by punching it. He made it to shore with only minor injuries.

“I thought I was going to get swallowed up,” Locke told WKMG-TV in Orlando.