‘Never seen anything like it’: Wildlife photographer captures photo of alligator launching out of water

SARASOTA, Fla. (WFLA) – While on a photography trip at a Florida state park earlier this year, wildlife photographer Tim Smith captured a stunning picture of an alligator launching itself.

“I have lived in Florida for almost 50 years, and I have never seen anything like it, nor have I found anything quite like it on the internet,” Smith told Nexstar’s WFLA.

Back in April, Smith ventured to Myakka River State Park in Sarasota with a woman who was a ranger at the park for 10 years. The ranger also said she had never seen anything like it, according to Smith.

Courtesy of Tim Smith
As for what prompted the alligator to launch itself? Smith said the animal seemed to be reacting to a school of fish that got stirred up in the water.

According to Experience Kissimmee, alligators can leap up to five feet out of the water to snag their dinner. They do it by pushing up with their tails.

On April 18, Smith posted the amazing photo on a Myakka River State Park Facebook group. Since then, the snapshot has gotten over 1,000 likes, hundreds of shares, and dozens of comments.

Did you know that alligators first appeared on earth 37 million years ago? The ‘armored’ beasts are still with us today, lurking in and around fresh waters and seizing our imaginations with their fierce looks and stunning size, agility, speed, and power. They have been compared to living dinosaurs.

Today, nearly 1.3 million American Alligators—the largest reptiles in North America—live in Florida. Read on to learn about these impressive creatures’ most shocking characteristics, then get up close and personal with them at some of the Kissimmee area’s most popular family attractions.

1. Alligators Lose & Grow a Lot of Teeth

Seriously, a lot. In fact, estimates suggest that the average alligator will lose about 2,000 teeth over the course of its lifetime. Luckily, alligators are able to regrow new teeth almost as quickly as they lose them, and at any given time they may have up to 80 teeth in their mouth.

With all these teeth, alligators can look like they’re smiling but, trust us, they’re not. Emotion just isn’t their thing. But those pearly whites do come with great power – a bite strong enough to cut through steel. Seeing a gator chomp is a jaw-dropping experience!

Where to See Gators Bare Their Teeth

Head over to Gatorland, aka Alligator Capital of the World, to see gators at various stages of life – and teeth, from babies in the Baby Gator Marsh to 14-foot beasts in the Breeding Marsh. Soar over this teeming habitat on the Screamin’ Gator Zip Line and experience more gator-filled ecosystems at the headwaters of the Everglades from one of the Stompin’ Gator Off-Road Adventure’s 12-foot-high vehicles. The gators won’t be the only ones with gaping mouths.

2. Alligators Can Leap Five Feet in The Air

Animals perched on low-hanging branches above the water may find themselves in an unfortunate predicament. That’s because alligators can leap up to five feet out of the water to snag their dinner. They do this by pushing themselves up with their tails, and the maneuver’s an incredible sight to behold (as long as you’re a safe distance away while watching). Since gators have a diverse palate, leaping is just one way they sate their appetites.

Where to Watch Gators Jump & Lunge

Catch the thrilling Gator Jumparoo Show at Gatorland to see some of the biggest gators in the world jump four feet or higher to grab a tantalizing bite. Or join an educator in playing ‘jumping for chicken’ from the safety of a high perch at Wild Florida’s Gator Encounter. Gators below you will vie for the tasty morsels you dangle above them.

3. Albino Alligators in Florida are Rare but Real

Some people think that albino alligators are a myth. But here in the Kissimmee area, we know they’re quite real because we get to see them in our local attractions. These gators lack melanin, which makes their scales and skin completely white and sensitive to sunlight. The pale ones are also known for their unique eye color – the blood vessels show through the whites of their eyes, lending them a sparkly pink hue.

To stay comfortable, these gators must live in a shady or climate-controlled habitat – much to the delight of visitors, our local gator parks offer just the right environment for them to thrive.

Where to See White Alligators in Kissimmee

Gatorland’s White Gator Swamp features two types of white alligators: albino (totally lacking in melanin) and leucistic (partially lacking pigmentation). Only 12 leucistic gators and fewer than 20 albino gators exist in the world, so you’re in for a real treat at Gatorland where you can see two leucistic brothers along with a pair of beautiful albinos. Wild Florida offers an Albino Gator Training Encounter that lets you master verbal cues, act as a trainer for an albino gator duo, and reward them with treats.

4. Alligators Are Exceptionally Fast on Land & Water

It’s a common misconception that alligators are slow creatures. Sure, they may like to conserve energy, but if they’re motivated to pick up the pace for food or self-defense, watch out!

Alligators can reach speeds of up to 35 mph on land (though they’re known to tire quickly). And in the water, they can reach a top speed of 20 mph, which is faster than a bottlenose dolphin. They also have a lot more stamina in the water than on land. Bottom line: Don’t give a gator reason to chase you – anywhere.

Where to See Alligators Swim, Run & Lounge

All the alligator attractions in Central Florida give you a chance to see amazing gator moves from a safe distance. On an airboat ride with Boggy Creek Airboat Adventures, you’ll whisk across the local swamp waters and walls of grass at speeds of up to 45mph, seeing plenty of gators but outpacing them all. As the airboats idle through canals, you’ll see the creatures hit the ground running, lumbering, and basking, or wallowing in the wetlands.

5. Alligators Can Climb & Scale Daunting Obstacles

As if a running alligator isn’t impressive enough, these prehistoric powerhouses are also known to climb ladders, staircases, trees, and even fences! All they need is the sort of incline that allows them to get a grip and pull themselves up. If you’re ever out in the wild looking for alligators, be sure to also look up.

Where to View All Kinds of Gator Behaviors & Tricks

Gatorland, Wild Florida and Boggy Creek Airboat Adventures showcase a variety of alligator capabilities, including the behaviors they exhibit when they’re determined to mate or catch prey, which may include getting vertical.

6. Alligators Hunting for Prey Are Crafty

No, we’re not talking about arts & crafts, though alligators have been observed using tools to help them while hunting. Specifically, they use sticks as lures by gathering them on their snouts. Then, they wait for unwary birds looking for potential material to build their nests. Dangerous and smart, alligators are definitely a force to be reckoned with in nature.

Where to See a Feeding Frenzy & Spy Gators After Dark

Kissimmee area gator parks and airboats journeys steep you in knowledge and fun while removing risks. Participate in Gatorland’s Adventure Hour to safely get within just a few feet of gators engaged in a feeding frenzy in the Alligator Breeding Marsh.

And where else but Wild Florida could you dine without heart palpitations with the likes of Crusher, a 14-foot, 1000-pound gator? (You’ll get to toss him a snack while learning all about him and chowing down on your own yummy meal.) And with Boggy Creek Airboat Adventures, you can take a Night Tour and venture out onto the waters after dark – prime gator feeding hours – without fear.

7. Alligators Make Great Mothers

Alligators are major predators and can be extremely aggressive, but they also have strong maternal instincts and are known to be fiercely protective of their young. Their nurturing instincts kick in before they lay their eggs. A mother alligator builds a comfortable nest on shore with a layer of vegetation that keeps her eggs warm, and during the 65-day incubation period, she never strays far from that nest. When it’s time for her babies to hatch, the mother will carefully carry each egg in her powerful jaws from the nest to the water.

But motherhood for an alligator doesn’t stop once her eggs hatch. In fact, alligators are known to watch over and protect their young ones for up to two years.

Where to See Baby Alligators & New Hatchlings

Stop by Gatorland’s Baby Gator Marsh for a hefty dose of cuteness. This habitat holds and protects more than 60 small alligators, including the most recent hatchlings. Even gators are adorable when they’re little.

Do you have a favorite fact about alligators we didn’t mention here? We’d love to hear it! Tag us @ExperienceKissimmee on Instagram Opens in new window , @Kissimmee on Twitter Opens in new window , or visit the Experience Kissimmee Facebook Page Opens in new window where you can share your interesting, impressive, or just plain unbelievable alligator facts with us.