A 9-year-old Florida boy spoke about his alligator attack encounter. The plucky boy got into a kerfuffle with an alligator – a nine foot, 400 pound gator that is – and lived to tell his brave tale. James Barney Jr., from St. Cloud, was riding his bike last week when he decided he needed to cool off. A nearby lake looked tempting, and in he went, all the while being closely observed by a massive alligator.
Speaking from his hospital bed, the redheaded boy gave a thumbs-up and described his encounter.
“It really amazed me what happened. At first, I thought someone was just playing with me, and I didn't know what happened. I reached down to grab it, and I felt its jaw, I felt its teeth, and I didn't know what to do, so I immediately reacted and hit it a couple times,” James said. “I just immediately hit it and I let it go a little so I pry its jaw open.”
Barney’s swim took place last Thursday in a restricted area of East Lake Tohopekaliga in Osceola County. After he fought off the attack, he was flown to Arnold Palmer Hospital with at least 30 superficial bites and scratches on his body. Florida Fish and Wildlife officials said they are attempting to capture the gator, who they say has likely been fed by visitors to the St. Cloud Lakefront Park.
Joseph Elsebough, a gator trapper brought in to seize and relocate the animal, estimated its size as “probably a 400- to 500-pound gator,” he said. “The fact that he gave so many casts on him tells me that he's probably been fed. Once somebody feeds a gator, they associate people with food.”
WFTV.com out of Orlando carried the 911 call from a passerby who saw Barney crawling out of the lake.
The caller recounted: “We heard him screaming, and then we didn't know what happened, so we decided to go over there and there was a big alligator actually five feet away from him. He was crawling up the shore screaming and crying with gator bites all over his back and scratches.”
In an Aug. 7 Facebook post, Barney's father James wrote: “Today I was told to count my blessings, material and non material. Little did I know that I could of lost one of them very easily. My son put up a good fight and beat a 9 foot alligator. He literally fought him off and has a tooth to prove it. I thank God for watching over him and protecting him and answering my prayer I said first thing this morning. So remember: count your blessings you never know when they might be gone.”
The Orlando Sentinel reported this morning that the hunt for Barney’s attacker will continue this week. Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission officials are setting traps and have closed the St. Cloud lakefront swimming areas and the Dan Tarrell Memorial Point until further notice.
Barney even has a souvenir that backs up his courageous story – a gator tooth that was extracted from his back. “I want to put it on a necklace so that I can tell all my friends,” he said.
Bullies beware: James Barney is one tough kid.