As the “Sunshine State,” Florida has a well-earned reputation as a land of beaches, subtropical weather, competitive pro sports teams, and being host to the “Happiest Place on Earth.”
However, the state also has earned notoriety as being hurricane-prone, deeply conservative, and swimming with zany stories about the mythical “Florida man.” More importantly, Florida is also a land of geographic diversity where people frequently rub shoulders with the region’s wildlife – and especially its massive crocodiles and alligators.
Such was the case on Thursday when a humongous alligator was spotted jaunting through a golf course in the southwest Florida city of Naples, treating the green like its very own personal lawn.
The shocking video of the Jurassic-sized gator was captured at the Valencia Golf and Country Club, and shows the reptilian predator waddling through the grassy field in an uber casual manner before plunging into the water.
The video footage and captured stills of the massive beast quickly made the rounds on the internet, with many comparing the Florida native to a monster or even a dinosaur. And let’s be honest, these humongous crocodilians aren’t too dissimilar from their extinct ancestors.
Many online users also expressed doubt over whether the images were real or were Photoshopped, mainly due to the mammoth size of the tremendous creatures.
“HUGE FLORIDA GATOR! Yep, this monster is real,” tweeted Matt Devitt, a meteorologist at WINK News.
“That’s no gator. That’s a walking, living dinosaur,” replied one user.
“I’ve seen some huge gators in Naples but seeing one taking a stroll like that is quite a sight,” tweeted another user.
A third commenter captured our mood perfectly by replying with a GIF of the iconic scene from Jurassic Park where young protagonist Lex trembles with fear at the sight of the dinos while appropriately holding a spoonful of jiggling, bright-green jello.
While Florida is the natural habitat of American alligators – with an estimated 2 million wild gators living in the state – humans have every reason to feel awestruck and even fearful of the creatures.
The American alligator (Alligator mississippiensis) can grow to about 10 feet long – roughly the length of two grand pianos – and is frequently involved in terrifying cases of property damage, and can easily hurt or even kill people who fail to exercise caution around the native gators.
While alligators frequently try their best to steer clear of people, and the likelihood of a Florida resident being injured in an unprovoked gator attack is about one in 2.4 million, according to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission.
However, wild alligators have been known to aggressively pursue their human neighbors.
Don’t assume that alligators are slow-pokes, either – with speeds of up to 35 mph, gators can easily make lunch of even gold medal-winning runners like Usain Bolt, whose maximum speed is a comparatively plodding 28 mph.
“Never make the mistake of thinking that an alligator is slow and lethargic,” the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department warns. “Alligators are extremely quick and agile and will defend themselves when cornered.”
In general, experts recommend that people who encounter the animals should make a mad dash to flee. And if the creature does bite you, fight like your life depends on it.
In fact, a golf club – perhaps a nine-iron, wedge, or putter – could be ideal for whacking an alligator in before making your escape!
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