Deputies with the Charleston County Sheriff's Office were responding to a missing-person report when they found a man's body in a "large pond" behind his home

By Char Adams
June 24, 2019 01:35 PM
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Authorities in South Carolina are working to determine whether an elderly man was fatally attacked by an alligator after he was found dead in a pond behind his home, reports say.

Deputies with the Charleston County Sheriff’s Office were responding to a missing-person report just after 2 p.m. on Saturday in Kiawah Island and quickly became suspicious when they saw the man’s car parked at his Kiawah Island Club Drive home and a “large pond” just behind the property, according to a police statement obtained by PEOPLE.

“Helicopter observers located what appeared to be a motionless person in the pond, out of sight from the residence,” authorities said in the statement. “The deceased individual had bite marks and wounds consistent in appearance with an alligator encounter.”

The Department of Natural Resources told NBC affiliate WCBD that deputies called them to assist with the investigation, with authorities reportedly noting that an alligator was laying on top of the man.

The man, whose identity has not been made public, had not been seen since 10 a.m. that morning, deputies said. The department said the victim is believed to be a white male in his 80s, according to the station.

The Charleston County Coroner’s Office did not immediately respond to a request for comment from PEOPLE. Authorities did not say whether they believe the man sustained the alligator bites before or after his death.

RELATED: Florida Woman Seriously Injured in Alligator Attack While Swimming in Lake

In August 2018, 45-year-old Cassandra Cline was attacked and killed by an alligator while walking her dog on Hilton Head Island. Stories of alligator attacks elsewhere in the U.S. have made headlines in recent months.

In May, Nichole Tillman, 26, of Melbourne, Florida, was seriously injured in an alligator attack at Key Lake Wilderness Park in Cocoa.

In the wake of Saturday’s incident, Kiawah Island officials shared safety tips, as alligators become “more active” in the spring, summer and fall.

“Most pond and lakes around the island have signage warning of the dangers of alligators but it’s important to remember that any pond or lake in the Lowcountry has the potential to have alligators in it,” town officials wrote in a Facebook post on Saturday. “On Kiawah, the interaction between people and alligators is inevitable. Please remember the following safety tips.”

Tips include staying at least 60 feet — or four car lengths — from alligators and not feeding, approaching, harassing or throwing objects at alligators.

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