HomeOutdoorsNews6-foot alligator removed from grocery store parking lot in Florida

6-foot alligator removed from grocery store parking lot in Florida

by Caitlin Berard
Alligator on the pavement in Florida
(Photo by tobiasfrei via Getty Images)

With the second-largest alligator population in the country, nowhere in Florida is safe from the carnivorous crocodilians – not even the grocery store parking lot.

On Thursday evening, Pinellas Park Police Department received an unusual call (even for Florida). There was a large alligator wandering the streets near the local Publix grocery store.

According to Lt. Roxanne Pohl, though, the gator was following all traffic laws. So, at least it was a law-abiding citizen?

Eventually, the alligator made its way to the Publix parking lot, sparking jokes from the Florida police department. “We can only speculate that he was on his way to pick up a PubSub,” they wrote in a Facebook post detailing the incident.

Working together, Pinellas Park PD and the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission caught the out-of-place alligator and transported it to a nearby body of water.

Despite wandering into a populated area, the gator neither harmed nor attempted to harm anyone. The reptile most likely ventured away from its usual home in search of a mate and got lost. As a result, officials simply released it near the water and went on their way.

Why alligators in Florida (and across the southeast) are more visible in spring

Spring is an important time of year for alligators, both in Florida and across the southeast. First, they come out of brumation (the reptilian version of hibernation). Both their appetite and body temperature go back to normal as they emerge from their dens and stretch their legs.

After warming up in the sun and eating a fish or two, it’s time to start looking for a mate. As late winter turns to spring, gators reach their most active and visible. Courtship begins in early April and by May and June, mating season is in full swing.

During this time, both male and female alligators are on the move. Dominant males remain in their territory, using bellows and courtship displays to attract females, who travel to the prospective mate.

Meanwhile, the weaker males are often displaced – the last thing a dominant gator wants is competition. These smaller alligators are the ones that look for love in all the wrong places, winding up in swimming pools, retention ponds, and Publix parking lots.

Alligators range from 6 to 12 feet on average, and the largest ever recorded in Florida was over 17 feet long, so the grocery store gatecrasher was indeed on the small side.

As this incident proved, alligators are not overly aggressive towards humans as a species. What makes them aggressive is when they lose their natural fear of humans and instead associate us with food.

Because of this, it’s crucial to never feed a wild gator. Even if your intentions are good, you risk harm to the alligator, as well as pets and people in the area. The best thing to do when spotting an alligator gone astray is to contact your local wildlife agency and let them take it from there.