Divers were searching Thursday in what a sheriff’s office described as “gator-infested waters” after human body parts were discovered in a nature preserve near West Palm Beach, Florida.
The Martin County Sheriff’s Office said in a statement that the Hungryland Wildlife Preserve was closed after human remains were discovered near the canal bank Wednesday night.
“A large gator did have possession of what was located last night,” the sheriff’s office said.
Officials did not reveal details but the Miami Herald reported that a state biologist had spotted what appeared to be a detached human arm in an alligator’s mouth. The newspaper reported that on Thursday, another body part, possibly part of a leg, was discovered.
“We can’t rule out the possibility that somebody fell in the water and died of natural causes out here, but it doesn’t look like that to us,” Sheriff William Snyder said, according to WPTV.
Criminal investigators, forensic detectives and state wildlife officers were on the scene. The sheriff’s office also said a sniper was “keeping a watchful eye” to protect the divers from alligators.
The park, which comprises more than 16,600 acres in Martin and Palm Beach counties, is used for hunting, fishing and wildlife viewing.
The discovery of the body parts comes after it was revealed that Florida wildlife officials hadthat swam within inches of a frightened paddleboarder in a popular state park during a September encounter recorded on video that went viral.