Hint: think of your favorite small car, then imagine an alligator that big.
So far, 2017 has been a wild year for alligators.
First, a video of what is clearly one hell of a large alligator began making the rounds of news sites, provoking comparisons to dinosaurs.
Yeah, it was that big. Check it out:
This truly massive alligator was spotted casually walking across a path in Central Florida. The locals call it "Hunchback." pic.twitter.com/rBMt6JwtQ4
— CNN (@CNN) January 17, 2017
Then, a Springfield, Missouri couple vacationing in Florida were shocked when when an alligator jumped onto their airboat. They caught the entire thing live on Facebook Live:
First, the giant alligator. At first, many viewers thought it was a hoax, and that people had been photoshopped into the shot to make the animal look so large.
But experts interviewed by National Geographic said the size of the gator was quite plausible. In fact, it wasn’t even record breaking.
“The largest published size record for the American alligator is a 14-foot, 9.25-inch individual that was killed in Alabama in 2014,” wildlife ecologist and conservation biologist David A. Steen told National Geographic. “The American alligator in the video does not look nearly as big as those record-holders and I have no reason to suspect it is a fake.”
Ian Recchio, curator of reptiles at the Los Angeles Zoo, agreed.
“The animal in the video is most certainly an American alligator, and it’s a pretty large one, probably a male,” he told National Geographic. “I can’t tell if somebody photoshopped the people in the background, but it appears to be authentic.”
In fact, this is far from the first time an alligator this large has been caught on film in Florida. After rigorous fact checking, experts verified the authenticity of this film shot on a Florida golf course last year:
An alligator this size is likely a male, experts say. Female alligators usually don’t grow larger than 10 feet. Crocodiles can be even bigger than alligators—the largest crocodile ever recorded was 20.24 feet.
Alligators continue to grow throughout their whole life, scientists now believe. And they typically can live up to 80 years. But that’s not to say that the biggest are necessarily the oldest — just like humans, there is individual variation among alligators, National Geographic reports.
As for the alligator that leaped into the boat, we’re happy to report that everyone survived the encounter, including the gator.
In the video, the gator is seen lying motionless a few feet away from the airboat. The gator then jumps on the airboat and gets wedged in the airboat’s railing.
“I didn’t fear the worst at all,” said Tylor Hindery, who shot the video and posted it on Facebook. “As crazy as it sounds, within a second of it happening I realized the alligator wasn’t going for us — it was going away from us and trying to find water,” he told Naples Daily News. “The part that was more worrisome was when it looked like the alligator couldn’t get out of the boat. I was thinking ‘What are we going to do if it can’t get out?’”
The gator eventually was able to slip out of the railing and back into the water.
“I’m happy it ended up so well, that was crazy, and I’m very happy that gator was so courteous,” said Hindery’s wife, Emerald, told Naples Daily News via Facebook message.