We asked a scientist about that ‘impossibly large alligator’

The internet is going wild over footage of a giant alligator taking an leisurely stroll at a golf course in Florida. Deadspin called it “impossibly large.”

But is it really so extraordinary?

Maybe not, says Ken Rice, director of the Wetland and Aquatic Research Center of the United States Geological Survey. He says it’s difficult to tell from the footage precisely how long the alligator is, but he’d guess 11 to 13 feet.

“It’s obviously an adult male,” he told Tech Insider. “I’m sure it’s not 15 feet, because that would be a world’s record.” The current record for longest American alligator is a little over 14 feet long; an average male is about 11 feet long.

Of course, Florida has a history of prompting internet freakouts when very large reptiles show up in very human places. Last year, a similarly large alligator on a similar golf course made headlines.

Rice says that in Florida, alligators frequently end up on golf courses because of nearby ponds and lakes. “This is breeding season, and during that time adult males will roam around looking for mates,” he said.

The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission believes there are about a million alligators in their state. American alligators were hunted to the point of being endangered, but conservation efforts since the 1960s have allowed them to thrive.

“They’re a top predator in our local environment here and they’re a keystone species,” Rice said. “We just have to learn to live with them — and folks in Florida are pretty used to that.”

In general, alligators try to avoid people, but they lose this shyness when humans feed them. American alligators have been known to kill humans, but only rarely.

If you do find yourself near an alligator, Rice said, “just stay back and let him go about his business.” That’s what Charles Helms, who shot the footage, did.

You can watch the full video below.


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