The Florida alligator refused to wow the small crowd, if it noticed them, with a burst of speed as it crossed the grassy path. Its size was enough. Each slow step was like the twist of a queen’s wave, as though such things as urgency were below the product of a long reptilian heritage. The American alligator line, after all, is ancient: The bones of alligators living in wetlands 8 million years ago were surprisingly similar to bones within today’s gators, as suggested by fossilized reptiles recently discovered in central Florida.
On Sunday, its massive and humped scales, not its concern for time, captured the attention of visitors to the Circle B Bar Reserve in Lakeland, Fla. A woman named Kim Joiner, who witnessed the large animal and posted a video to Facebook, wrote, “I love Circle B. Nature at its best.” Joiner described the animal as about 12 feet long, reported WFLA 8.
The creature has been nicknamed Humpback or “Mr. Hunchback” by those taken with its arched spine. On land, alligators must lug their heavy tails, causing them to adopt what is called a high walk. This pendulum gait helps to somewhat mitigate that tail drag, found a 2004 study in the Journal of Experimental Biology, by recovering about a fifth of the energy the animal expended.
The alligator caught on camera may appear to be of unusual size, but 12 feet was certainly within the realm for a male full-grown gator. The Florida record for longest alligator is over 14 feet; although female alligators rarely stretch to longer than 10 feet, males can grow several feet longer, according to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission.
Polk County’s 1,267-acre Circle B Bar Reserve was at one time a cattle ranch. It has since become a nature reserve, home to bald eagles and ospreys, and crossed by trails with names like “Marsh Rabbit Run” or “Alligator Alley.” It is not unusual to see alligators in Lake Hancock, which borders the preserve to the east, according to the Polk County Environmental Lands Program.
In May, a similarly impressive gator strolled across a Florida golf course. The animal was so large one golfer wondered if he was being goofed on by two men in a rubber suit. Tampa Bay Times’ PolitiFact determined the animal did, in fact, exist.
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