Tourists in Florida got quite a shock on Jan. 15 when they encountered an alligator the size of a small car (video below).
The huge gator is seen lumbering across a narrow path between two fields of tall grass, reports the Daily Mail.
It occurred at the Circle B Bar Reserve in Lakeland, Florida, and was originally posted by Kim Joiner on Facebook, where it has been shared over 18,000 times. Nicknamed "Humpback" because of its notably arched back, the big gator appears oblivious to the two groups of photographers seen on either side of it.
The popularity of the video is no doubt due to the sheer size of the gator, which one commenter described as a dinosaur. Another commented: "Okay. Wow. As a native Floridian even I am awestruck by the size."
"I thought it was fake," said another to a reporter from WFTS, the ABC affiliate in Tampa Bay. "But then when I saw where it was and recognized the trail I said that has got to be real," the person added.
Reportedly, nobody has measured this gator, but according to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, the largest gator ever measured was over 14 feet long.
As herpetologist Owen Maercks explains on Pet Business: "There are three subdivisions of the order Crocodilia: true crocodiles, gharials, and alligators. The alligators are further subdivided into alligators, caimans and dwarf caimans."
Maercks runs the East Bay Vivarium in Berkeley, California, which is billed as one of the nation's largest reptile stores. Surprisingly, he says alligators would make good pets if it weren't for their size. "Despite their size, they are easily tamed and seem to maintain laconic personalities throughout their lives. However, their size does present a long-term problem. Males have the capability of getting well over 12 feet. Frankly, even a cow is a creature of a size as to be potentially problematic both in terms of potential danger and physical needs for caging and feeding."
He therefore recommends dwarf caimans as an alternative, noting that "they tame down easily and stay that way. They are attractive creatures, and of course they are the kind of pet that tends to inspire keepers to build beautiful enclosures. Crocodilians have a great cachet of mystery about them—at once lazily dreamy yet brooding and calculating."
Which perhaps explains the social media fascination with Humpback the giant gator.