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Joshua Wells, 44, was playing fetch on June 6 with his 3 ½-year-old mixed Labrador retriever Toby when the dog was attacked and killed by a large alligator. The attack happened at the popular and sprawling J.R. Alford Greenway Trail park in Tallahassee, Florida.

Wells said the strike happened so quickly that neither the 40-pound dog nor its owner had time to react and flee.

“Boom, the water just sort of exploded,” Wells told the Tallahassee Democrat. “He [Toby] never barked. He never saw it… The gator took him down like it was nothing.”

Wells said he tried to rescue the family dog by grabbing the alligator, but released the reptile when he saw how big it was.

“He said he soon realized that was not a good idea and let the alligator go,” the Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission reported. The gator was approximately nine feet long.

FWC learned of the incident on June 9. Officer Benjamin Johnson with the FWC first reported the gator attack and looked for the reptile for two hours. He located a 6-foot gator, in addition to a larger 9-foot gator which officials believed to be the dog-killing reptile. The dog was found floating in the water, and its body was later returned to Wells, who buried it.

State-licensed alligator trappers were sent to the scene to locate and catch the gators. Both were caught and the larger 9-foot, 2-inch gator was euthanized.

“A 9-foot gator easily can weigh 200 to 350 pounds, and are lightning fast in their attack,” says Chadwick Lairsey, a Florida-licensed nuisance alligator trapper. “Gators are wild, apex predators, and when they decide to strike and kill something they aren’t playing games. They are as fast as any wild animal taking food.”

All Florida waters can have alligators, says the FWC. The J.R. Alford Greenway Trail park in Tallahassee is a popular spot with families and children, and the agency reminds visitors to remain wary of gators and other native wildlife when spending time near the water.

“There’s cul-de-sacs [near the park], you’re not expecting a gator to come out and eat your dog,” Wells said. “No one wants to go by gator, you know?”