When the ocean calls, even reptiles answer it.

By Marisa Spyker
April 12, 2019
Brett Lobwein / Barcroft Images / Barcroft Media via Getty Images

Living in Florida comes with its share of unique privileges, including the kind that grants you VIP access to some of nature’s weirdest, most otherworldly-seeming creatures (we’re lookin’ at you, swamp thing).

The most famous of these, of course, is the alligator, sightings of which are practically rites of passage for Sunshine State transplants. But while the freshwater-dwelling reptiles are more likely to be seen in their natural habitats (swamps, rivers, and lakes, for example), Florida gators also have a reputation for surprising people.

That’s what happened recently on a stretch of shoreline in Panama City Beach, where an alligator, post swim-session, crawled up onto the sand and proceeded to sunbathe. A local witnessed the unusual beachgoer while fishing and shared photos on Facebook, which have now been shared nearly 8,000 times.  

“I think he was tired because of the current in the pass,” she told the Panama City News Herald. “He laid there on the beach for a while then he swam around Deepwater point in to North Lagoon.”

St. Andrews State Park, where the alligator was seen, encompasses a stretch of Gulf coastline as well as several lakes and lagoons where gators are known to hang out. While alligators don’t seek out saltwater—their bodies can’t physically handle high concentrations of sodium—they do occasionally make their way to the beach by chance. (In 2016, Texas beachgoers were treated to two gator sightings in one week.)

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Adding fodder to Florida’s reputation for weird, alligators have also been known to show up in other strange places, too, including backyard swimming pools, underneath cars, in trees, and on golf courses.

While the large reptiles might look fierce, incidents involving humans and gators are very rare. According to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, Florida has averaged about 5 unprovoked bites per year since 1948. If you do encounter an alligator, it’s important to keep your distance and keep pets leashed and close by. And if you find yourself unexpectedly close to an alligator, run or briskly walk until you’re a safe distance away (that means about 20 to 30 feet…or whatever the distance is to your closest tiki bar). Find more information about coexisting with alligators in Florida here.