TAMPA, FL — It’s the video everyone is talking about – a massive gator that looks like he crawled straight out of central casting for Jurassic Park.
This reptile is currently roaming Polk County, living in Lakeland. And, as it turns out, after one chance encounter, the creature is the newest Internet superstar. But, WFLA News Channel 8 found out fame comes with a price.
Even Floridians are fascinated by this Godzilla-like doppelgänger. And, that’s exactly the problem. This gator now has his own fan base looking for him in the Circle B Nature Preserve in Lakeland.
There is a warning for those fans in a frenzy, the obsession that has been ignited.
Don’t be fooled, experts say, by this gator’s slow, sluggish appearance. Looks can be deceiving. Our expert told us point-blank – if this gator finds you first, you’re finished.
“He’s like greased lightning. He can move faster than anyone here. He may look like a dumb slow animal, but he’s fast” said Vernon Yates.
Yates is a well-known wildlife expert in Tampa Bay. He’s spent his entire life rescuing and rehabilitating all kinds of animals. He knows a thing or two about alligators, and he should. He’s got 18 of them at his animal rescue in Pinellas County. The reptiles at Yates’ rescue are huge, massive beasts that could be cousins with the one living in Lakeland.
Folks are fascinated by the latest gator found slinking for the preserve. And that’s what worries this alligator advocate.
“It’s on video, they’ve seen him. They just need to leave him alone afraid some hunter will try to save the world and kill him.”
When this video went viral, the hunt began. Fans began watching and wondering when they would see the animal again. The hunt session for the perfect selfie was ignited. “Just leave him alone. Stay away from him, you know he lives here,” Yates told us.
Yates estimates that the Polk County gator is 800 pounds and could be up to 50 years old. He reminded us that it is illegal to touch product or poke a gator.
“The video is there. Just watch it,” he said. “Don’t harm the animal.”