COLLIER COUNTY (CBSMiami/CNN) – Dolphins, manatees, fish, even sharks are normal sightings in the Gulf of Mexico but that is not what caught the eye of beachgoers in Collier County.
It was an American alligator seen swimming in the saltwater off Vanderbilt Beach in Naples on Wednesday morning. Alligators are primarily freshwater animals but can tolerate salt water.
“He crept up from the south and kind of just kept swimming along real slow. Kind of hung out a bit,” said one surprised beachgoer.
“Soon as I got down to the water it was probably about 10 to 20 feet out and the tail started to move as soon as I saw that. That’s not a log, that’s an alligator,” said another.
For hours, people kept track while keeping out of the water.
Expert gator trapper Ray Simon says the Vanderbilt Beach encounter is not as unusual as you would think.
“This is Florida. They could be anywhere they want to be.”
Simon says he has actually caught a few gators in the gulf before.
“Typically, the gators are more afraid of us than we are of them,” he says.
Ray believes it’s likely this gator ended up in the Gulf following the currents from all of the recent rain.
“The water has no place to go so they just go with the flow.”
He adds that the gators don’t really pose a danger to swimmers and has this important reminder.
“With any wildlife, maintain a safe distance 30 35 feet. Be aware of your surroundings.”
(©2019 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. Cable News Network, Inc., a Time Warner Company, contributed to this report.)