Alligator Filmed Swimming in the Ocean Off Florida Beach in Rare Sighting

An American alligator has been spotted swimming in the ocean in an unusual behavior for this kind of animal.

Alligators are primarily freshwater animals, which live in swampy areas, rivers, streams, lakes and ponds, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Despite this, they can tolerate saltwater for a few hours, or even days.

Florida residents saw the gator in question talking a dip in the waters off Vanderbilt Beach, which lies on the state's western coast, NBC2 reported.

One eyewitness, Emily Fogelgren, captured a video of the creature as it swam between Wiggins Pass and Bay Colony. She sent footage to the news outlet's Facebook page.

Autumn Jackson, another eyewitness who was in the area at the time, spotted the alligator as well and managed to capture several pictures of it from 17 stories up.

Brian Norris, Public Information Officer for the Florida Fish & Wildlife Conservation Commission, said the animal was very likely to be an alligator rather than a crocodile, although he could not be completely certain.

"It's hard to say 100 percent, but it is likely an American alligator," Norris told NBC2. "That's more likely than a crocodile in this area. Every once in a while, an alligator will venture into the salt water for short periods of time."

Crocodiles in North America only tend to live along the extreme southern coastline of Florida, including the Keys, and are mostly confined to Dade and Monroe counties, according to the United States Geological Survey.

By contrast, the American alligator is found across a much larger range covering all of Florida and Louisiana, as well as large parts of Texas, Arkansas, Alabama, Georgia and the Carolinas.

Interestingly, the famous Florida Everglades is the only place in the world where crocodiles and alligators co-exist in the wild.

Alligators are only generally found in freshwater environments, while crocodiles can be found in both freshwater and saltwater—although they can't live in the ocean, preferring to stick to river estuaries.

The reason for this difference is that crocodiles have glands which allow them to remove salt from their bodies more effectively than alligators, meaning they have a higher tolerance to saltwater.

Social media users also expressed surprise at seeing an alligator in the Gulf of Mexico.

"It's been quite a while since I've seen a gator in the gulf! They don't [like the] deep sea," Facebook user Val Cardone wrote in a post.

American alligator
An American Alligator rests on the shore of the alligator lagoon at Everglades Alligator Farm in Homestead, Florida, on June 24, 2016. RHONA WISE/AFP/Getty Images