MIAMI – Alligators are on the prowl in Florida and Sunshine State residents are keeping an eye out for the potentially deadly creatures.
Operators at the Statewide Nuisance Alligator Program in Okeechobee are being bombarded with calls after three women were killed in different areas by alligator attacks in one week.
Program officials say they logged 225 telephone calls on Monday alone, more than double the amount of calls answered last year.
Operators were staying late to handle the calls.
In the past week, three women have been killed by alligators. Wildlife officials say gator encounters are becoming more common as the state's population grows and drought sends the reptiles in search of wetter places.
Florida residents were being asked to call 866-FWC-GATOR to report alligators 4 feet or longer that pose a threat to them, their children or their pets.
The influx of calls means big business for gator trappers. Trapper Todd Hardwick said he typically gets about four nuisance alligator calls each day, but he's now getting 15 requests to have the animals removed from residents' properties.
Meanwhile, the medical examiner in Ocala National Forest said a woman attacked and killed by an alligator while snorkeling in a secluded recreation area last week died from drowning and multiple blunt-force injuries.
Annemarie Campbell, 23, of Paris, Tenn., suffered lacerations on her head, neck and upper torso and suffered multiple rib fractures, Associate Medical Examiner K. Podjaski said Tuesday.
Those with Campbell found her body inside the alligator near Lake George on Sunday and beat the animal until it released the body.
Officials are still trying to locate the reptile they believe to be between 7 and 9-feet long.
The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission planned to send a Cessna plane over the area where the attack took place. A spotter in the plane will relay anything noteworthy to trappers in a boat.
Campbell's body was one of two found Sunday that authorities said was killed by alligators.
The body of Judy W. Cooper, 43, of Dunedin, was found in a canal 20 miles north of St. Petersburg.
In Sunrise, the body of Yovy Suarez Jimenez, 28, was found May 6. She was attacked by an alligator while jogging near a canal, authorities said.
On Sunday near Bradenton, Candy Frey grabbed a handgun and fired four shots at a 3-foot alligator that attacked her golden retriever. The gator wasn't seriously hurt, but the woman got a warning citation for hunting without a license.
Frey told FOX News she knew of the previous gator attacks when the animal came through her doggie door and into her home.
"My daughter kicked at the gator and the gator lunged at her," Frey said. "He kept coming through the porch and the screen … I kept trying to flip him away" with the shovel, she added, "but every time I kept trying to flip him away, he came back, so I shot him. I thought that's the only option I had ... you're on instinct to protect your loved ones … he was quite aggressive."
An alligator on Tuesday sat itself on one woman's front porch in Pasco County near Tampa, barring the 75-year-old homeowner's exit. A neighbor called the woman and told her to stay inside.
A sheriff's deputy fired a rifle shot at the 9-foot alligator; the .223-caliber round pierced the reptile's head, but didn't slow it down.
"He opened his mouth, hissed at me, got up on all fours and started walking towards me, so I fired one shot into the alligator's head," said the officer. "The alligator quickly went back into the pond it came from."
"It didn't hurt him," said Mickey Fagan, a professional gator trapper who arrived a few minutes later. "It just made him mad."
Fagan caught the gator on a metal hook, taped its mouth shut and wrestled it into his trailer. It was just another day for the trapper, who says he's killed more than 60 alligators since March 18.
Fagan was back on the job Tuesday in another Pasco neighborhood, trapping an 11-footer that had ventured near some homes.
Doug Tobin of the Pasco County Sheriff's Department said the current drought-like conditions in Florida, combined with the start of mating season and the alligators searching for food has added to the recent feeding frenzy. The rapid pace of development in Florida also is disrupting the gators' habitat.
"It certainly is in the forefront in the media down here … but as far as the attacks have been concerned, the attacks have been fairly aggressive so it's getting a lot of attention," he told FOX News.
He said the gator at the woman's home in Pasco County Monday was "really extremely aggressive," pushing his snout onto the front door and puffing his chest. There had been reports that the gator was being fed by neighbors and that may be why it was so insistent on the porch. Tobin stressed that it's extremely unwise to feed the deadly creatures, which may otherwise leave humans alone.
Alligators are normally a protected species but because the population in Florida has now stabilized, the hunting season has now been extended there from five to 10 weeks and will continue until Nov. 1.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.