A popular, privately-owned lake-front property called SunWest Park had a surprise guest this weekend: an alligator.
Guests of the secluded park in Hudson, Florida, say they saw the alligator in the fresh-water lake this weekend, and tell ABC Action News they were surprised there were not signs explicitly warning them about the presence of alligators.
By phone, an employee of SunWest Park tells ABC Action News this is the first alligator to enter the park since the park opened in 2015.
The employee adds that there are signs that say "beware of wildlife."
The alligator, which guests described as being relatively small, has been deemed a nuisance gator, says the park representative, and is being removed.
Reaction to the alligator was mixed.
"Had a wonderful time with my family except for the crabs and alligator in the water," wrote one park visitor on the park's Facebook page of her trip this weekend. "I'm glad that now I know it's in there so I can keep an eye out, but it takes away from having a fun and relaxing day. I was concerned for those doing the zip line and falling in the water, not knowing the alligator was present at the time," she added.
According to Florida's Fish & Wildlife Commission (FWC) which is tasked with making state rules about alligators and monitoring adherence, "an alligator may be considered a nuisance if it is at least four feet in length and believed to post a threat to people, pets or property."
"Alligators less than 4 feet in length are not large enough to be dangerous unless handled," says the FWC. "They eat fish, frogs and other small animals, and the mere presence of a small alligator is not cause for concern."
In Florida, sightings of alligators are common, as the state is home to about 1.3 million alligators, present in all counties in the state, says the FWC. Attacks are rare, but when they happen they often make national headlines, including the death of a toddler at a Disney park in Florida in 2016.
SunWest Park is a popular tourist destination in Pasco County, located on a freshwater lake on the former spot of a limestone mine business. The lake is popular for its paddle-board, a zip line, a floating kids playground, and for its mile of white sandy beach.