Alligator kills 88-year-old woman in South Carolina after she slipped while gardening, officials say

An 88-year-old woman was killed in an alligator attack in South Carolina on Monday, officials said, the second fatal attack in the state in 2022 and at least the fourth nationwide this year.

Deputies with the Beaufort County Sheriff’s Office were notified around 11:15 a.m. about an alligator that looked as if it was "standing guard" beside a human body near a pond in Sun City Hilton Head, a gated adult community city just north of Savannah, Georgia, Maj. Angela Viens told USA TODAY.

Emergency services workers were able to recover the woman's body around 1 p.m., the sheriff's office said in a news release. She was identified as Nancy A. Becker.

Authorities said Becker, a Sun City resident, was gardening near the pond when she slipped into the water.

Officials said the alligator was a 9-foot, 8-inch male. It was removed from the pond Monday afternoon and euthanized. Beaufort County Coroner David Ott said Becker's autopsy will be done at the South Medical University of South Carolina.

Viens said that when she left the scene at 3 p.m., officials with the South Carolina Department of Natural Resources were still trying to capture the alligator.

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Sun City Hilton Head covers more than 5,725 acres, 1,500 of which are open land and wetlands, according to its website. Viens estimated there are over 200 ponds and lagoons in the community.

This is the fourth confirmed fatal alligator attack in the United States this year and second in South Carolina. A man was killed near a retention pond just outside Myrtle Beach on June 24.

Spring and summertime is usually when there is an increase in alligator activity, because that's typically when they breed and look for new habitats.

But experts say alligator attacks – especially fatal ones – are rare. This was the fifth fatal alligator attack in South Carolina since 2000, according to the release.

Texas Parks and Wildlife says alligators have a natural fear of humans. Frank Mazzotti, professor of wildlife ecology and member of the "Croc Docs" at the University of Florida, told USA TODAY in July that the reptiles "don't perceive humans as either a threat or as food."

He added you're more than likely to drown in water than be attacked by an alligator, but being in the water when alligators are nearby could entice them.

Follow Jordan Mendoza on Twitter: @jordan_mendoza5.

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Alligator kills woman, 88, near Hilton Head, S.C.; 4th US death in '22