A gruesome drama played out on the edge of the Everglades Monday night, as police tried to recover a human body being eaten by two alligators. Two fishermen called the police after encountering the scene in a canal west of U.S. 27 in the town of Southwest Ranches in western Broward County. The cause of death was not immediately known, and the police said the body appeared to have been in the water for a long time.

Officers from the Davie Police Department, which patrols Southwest Ranches, arrived and attempted to scare off the alligators, said Davie Police Capt. Dale Engle. Although the animals retreated, he said, they lingered nearby.

A dive team was called in, as officers armed with AR-15 rifles stood ready to shoot any approaching alligators. An alligator trapper from the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission was sent to the scene. By 10 p.m. they had recovered the body.

Carol Lyn Parrish, spokeswoman for the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, said the body turned out to be that of a man, but little else was known.

The Broward County Medical Examiner will attempt to determine the cause of death.

“We want to identify who the victim is and possibly figure out what happened to them and how did they end up here,” said Sgt. Pablo Castaneda, of the Davie Police. “Could it be homicide? Could it be suicide? Could it have involved a fisherman? We don’t know.”

Amy Moore, spokeswoman for the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, said it was too soon to tell whether the alligators killed the victim or were just scavenging on the remains.

“If we determine that an alligator was the cause, then we’ll go back and recover it,” she said.