WATCH: Manatee Joins Massive Alligator for a Swim in Florida State Park

by Craig Garrett
(Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)

A viral video captures a manatee curiously and fearlessly swimming after an alligator at a Florida state park. Dennis Osha, a wildlife photographer from Sarasota, filmed the two animals as they peacefully swam in the Myakka River this past summer. He posted the footage to his Instagram.

“I just took out my camera, my phone actually, and decided to get video of a gator that was walking, or swimming, right by the bridge, and it just happened that a manatee popped up right behind it,” Osha explained to WTVT.

“I was really excited about it because I was finally getting my picture of my manatee, not realizing at the time, that it was coming right behind the alligator,” Osha said. 

“Everyone was really fascinated because people didn’t realize there were manatees there,” Osha continued. “Everybody saw the gators and they started to realize that manatees were there, everybody started to congregate around the top of the bridge and check it out as well.”

Osha reported that the couple was living relatively peacefully. “I think it’s pretty common,” he claimed. “They share the same waterways. Manatees are a little big for the gators to have to try to eat and everything. I think that’s pretty much what they do- peacefully co-exist.” After shooting the video, Osha texted his wife and friends right away. “I knew it was a great capture when I got that on video,” Osha beamed. 

Alligators aren’t usually a threat to adult manatees

Cathy Beck, a wildlife biologist with the U.S. Geological Survey, told Save The Manatee Club that biologists have seen mother manatees protecting small calves from large alligators before. In other interactions between the two species, however, Beck says she’s never seen an alligator act aggressively toward a manatee. Alligators have grabbed radio transmitters attached to manatees’ tails before – likely mistaking them for food – but they quickly let go once they realized their mistake, according to the website.

Although alligators don’t usually eat manatees and the sea cows don’t have any known predators, humans are still a threat to them. In fact, they are considered an endangered and threatened species according to NOAA.

The Myakka River flows through 58 miles of different habitats according to the Florida State Parks website. Meanwhile, the Friends of Myakka River says that manatees are visible from the shoreline of the lower river.

Manatees are gentle giants that exclusively consume plants. Sixty different kinds of freshwater and saltwater plants make up the manatee diet. They reside in shallow, marshy areas near coastlines and rivers all over the world, including the Caribbean Sea, Gulf of Mexico, Amazon basin, and West Africa.

Manatees typically die from human-induced problems, such as loss of habitat and contact with human artifacts. Unfortunately, their lumbering movement and inquisitive nature leads to fatal crashes with propeller boats or ships. Scientists have discovered some manatees sporting over 50 scars from propeller blades alone. Additionally, unfavorable weather conditions, being preyed on by crocodiles when young and infection are also natural causes of death for these creatures.