'Aggressive' Gator Seen Chowing Down on Bird Forces Park to Close

An alligator was spotted on a boardwalk in Florida's Palm Island Park eating what appeared to be a bird for breakfast, which forced the park to shut down for the day and reopen the next morning.

Rick Cooper shared a video that shows the alligator eating a bird on his Facebook page July 10, which was later shared in a community group where it amassed more than 100,000 views.

According to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC), alligators are found in every one of Florida's counties.

Alligator
A man filmed an alligator as it was eating what appeared to be a bird on a boardwalk in a Florida park, which was subsequently closed. Above, a stock image of an alligator eating its prey after catching it. Jaimie Tuchman/iStock

The agency has a Statewide Nuisance Alligator Program (SNAP), which addresses alligator threats in developed areas.

"Generally, an alligator is deemed a nuisance if it is at least 4 feet in length and the caller believes it poses a threat to people, pets or property," the FWC said. "There are situations when smaller alligators wind up in places that are not acceptable, such as swimming pools, garages, etc., and must be removed."

In the video, the alligator is seen laying on the boardwalk with a bird in its mouth. It remains motionless as it stared ahead toward the water.

Cooper explained in the caption of his video that he took a moment to take some photos and video before leaving the area with his wife and their dog, Zoe.

Along the way, Cooper met with some officers of the Mount Dora Police Department who said they were closing the area until the alligator left. Police also announced the park's closure on social media.

"Due to an aggressive Alligator, Palm Island has been temporarily closed," a Facebook post published by the Mount Dora Police Department on July 10stated.

Vershurn Ford, a public information officer for the police department, told Newsweek in an email that the park reopened the next morning.

Ford said officers returned to the area July 11 to ensure that the alligator moved to a non-public location.

"Our goal was to allow time for the gator to naturally head back to its natural habitat without relocation," Ford said.

Cooper was surprised that the alligator made its way onto the boardwalk.

"To get to this spot he had to go quite a distance ... and this is the boardwalk we walk with Zoe every Sunday morning," Cooper's caption said, noting that Zoe was nowhere near the alligator.

Cooper wrote to Newsweek and confirmed that he and his wife take Zoe to walk on the boardwalk.

While they've seen alligators almost every time they go to the park because it sits on Lake Dora, Cooper said this was the first time he saw one on the boardwalk.

"We encountered a couple walking toward the exit and they told us about a gator on the boardwalk in the back of the park, so I knew it was there in advance," he said.

Cooper said he cautiously approached the alligator, careful to not startle it.

When he first saw it, he said, he was shocked by its size.

"It was entirely motionless during the couple of minutes that I filmed and took photos," Cooper said. "It was very much aware of our presence, so I was careful to keep a part of the wooden railing between me and the gator."

He said he and the other bystanders did not provoke the alligator and did not witness any aggressive behavior. However, Cooper said there may have been assertive behavior after he left.

Those who watched the video after it was shared in the community Facebook group took to the comments section to share their thoughts.

"He just made a wrong turn," one Facebook user wrote. "Gators are everywhere. Just be alert near water and give them space."

Another said the alligator was unlikely to cause any problems and would finish its meal before returning to the water.

"He just wanted to enjoy his lunch on the walkway," a viewer joked.

Others shared that they've seen many alligators in the area as well.

"Saw a seven footer in the water under there," one viewer commented. "A couple of three to four footers in the water at the far boardwalk."

Cooper frequently kayaks around alligators, so seeing this alligator was not a new experience.

"When you're essentially eye to eye with gators who are just a few feet away—and some much bigger than this one—you quickly gain a healthy respect for them," he said. "You also quickly learn how to position yourself—you never want to be between a gator and where it wants to go."

Another clip showed a Georgia police officer release an alligator into a river, while one video showed a male alligator performing a mating ritual known as a "water dance" in Florida.

An alligator was previously spotted prowling outside the front door of a Florida home.