Why did the alligator cross the road? To get to the other side … very, very, slowly.
A viral video of a massive, and monstrous alligator known unofficially as "Humpback" has just been posted on the Facebook page of a natural reserve in Florida.
The giant alligator was caught trekking slowly across a trail at the Circle B Bar Reserve near Lakeland, Florida. The creature is an American alligator, a species that spans the slow-moving rivers and swampy marshlands ranging from North Carolina to Texas.
Though a face-to-face with "Humpback" would be terrifying, he is not an unusually large creature for his kind. Males of the species can reach a whopping 11.2 feet (3.4 meters) in length, according to the Smithsonian's National Zoo and Conservation Biology Institute. Given his size, Humpback is likely a male.
"By our standards, he's big but nothing out of the ordinary for the preserve," according to a post on the Polk County Government Florida Facebook page.
So far, there's no word on exactly how old Humpback is, though American alligators typically live to about 50 years old, and are big enough to become top predators by about 4 years old, according to the Smithsonian National Zoo.
"Generally, alligators that have gotten that big are good at avoiding things that might be detrimental to them like humans," said Laura Brandt, senior wildlife biologist at the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. "This is probably an older alligator that's been around," she said, referring to "Humpback."
And age is unlikely the cause of his glacial gait. Rather, "alligators are adapted for living in the water, not so much for living on land. So he has a lot of weight to carry on those four little legs he's got," Brandt told Live Science. "When they're on land, unless they're chasing something, that's how they walk."
Alligators are known to reach speeds of up to 35 mph (56 km/h) in short bursts, according to Brandt. "For an animal that size, it's going to be a short burst and then he's going to run out of energy," she said.
This frigthening speed is one of the many reasons to steer clear of the gators when in reserves like Circle B Bar, said Jeff Spence, the Polk County parks and natural resources director. When in gator country, people should stay alert, keep to trails and avoid the water, keep a close eye on children, and pack out any food they brought in, Spence said. If they see a nesting alligator or one, like Humpback, crossing a trail, they should back out the way they came, he added.
"If there is an incident with the gator, it will not be a good outcome. Gators this large are not relocated. We ask everyone to be respectful of all wildlife, be safe and enjoy our natural environment," Spence told Live Science in an email.
Originally published on Live Science.
Editor's Note: Thish article was updated to add information from Laura Brandt and Jeff Spence.
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Tia is the managing editor and was previously a senior writer for Live Science. Her work has appeared in Scientific American, Wired.com and other outlets. She holds a master's degree in bioengineering from the University of Washington, a graduate certificate in science writing from UC Santa Cruz and a bachelor's degree in mechanical engineering from the University of Texas at Austin. Tia was part of a team at the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel that published the Empty Cradles series on preterm births, which won multiple awards, including the 2012 Casey Medal for Meritorious Journalism.
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