LAKEWOOD RANCH (WSNN) - It seems like alligator incidents are increasing on the Suncoast. A Manatee County man lives to tell the story of when one attacked him in late April.

A normal game of catch turned into a nightmare for Samuel Ray when he found himself face to face with an alligator in his backyard. The moment he realized what it was, it was too late to run. 

"It was about a foot away from the water," Ray said. "And then as soon as I put my hand on the ball, I bent over and picked it up. That’s when I saw the gator’s eye. And lunged out, and it was so fast, it was like a lightning strike.

Before he knew it, the gator clamped down on his hand like a vise, his shoulder was dislocated and he was waist-deep in the water. Ray acted quickly on pure adrenaline.

"I just knew that I had one second and socked him as hard as I could so that he would release my hand," Ray said.

The gator released him. He crawled out of the water and cried out for his family to call 911. While he suffered a detached nerve and a lot of blood loss, after three surgeries, his hand is intact.

"It’s painful, but I am able to move my hand, which I’m lucky to have a hand, I’m lucky to have an arm. I’m lucky to be alive

Florida Fish and Wildlife spokesperson Adam Brown says encounters like this are not normal. He suspects the alligator may have been fed.

"When you start to feed an alligator, it loses that natural wariness of humans and maybe even associates it with food and maybe acts in a little more of an aggressive manner," Brown said.

Brown says gators are more visible during mating season and during warmer weather.

"During spring and summertime, you will see them a lot more active," Brown said. "They will be on the move from pond to pond looking for prey as well as looking for mates."

But, FWC reports show an uptick in conflict with alligators on the Suncoast this year. Brown says he believes it’s due to the influx of population.

"The population has grown, the habitat is shrinking, and the number of alligators is the same

Now, if you do find yourself in a situation like Ray’s, Brown says always fight back.

"Go for the sensitive areas, the eyes or the snout of that alligator," Brown said. "And let him know that you are the alpha and that this is not a typical prey item that he’s going after. Prey is not going to put up a fight that a human can put up and so if you start to struggle and fight back, it will usually release."

Now, FWC has a Statewide Nuisance Alligator Program (SNAP) addressing complaints concerning specific alligators that may pose a threat to people, pets or property. If you’re concerned, you can call the hotline at 866-FWC-GATOR (866-392-4286).