Gator Fever: How to meet an alligator without risking your life!

"Humpback" in Polk County continues to draw crowds
Posted at 4:35 PM, Jan 19, 2017
and last updated 2017-01-19 16:35:21-05

The Circle B Nature Preserve in Polk County has been drawing huge crowds this week, after a video was posted online Sunday. People are desperately hoping to catch a glimpse of the huge, wild alligator nicknamed "Humpback" that roams the park.

But park officials say some people are doing some dangerous things just to get a glimpse of a huge gator. One person even jumped a viewing platform. Others have been getting dangerously close to the wildlife.

"Take a picture from a distance. You definitely don't want to get up close to them," advises John Paner.

Paner runs a place in Tampa where you can get up close with the gators, but safely.

Croc Encounters in Tampa hosts tours, educational programs, and even kids parties where families can safely hold a live baby alligator.

There's also an alligator there, named Amos, that's estimated to be about the same size as the now famous one at Circle B.

Amos is about 12 feet, 5 inches long.

"Alligators grow very slow, about a foot a year for the first few years then once they get about 5-6 feet they start slowing," explains Paner to ABC Action News. "Once they get 8, 9, 10 feet they almost completely stop growing."

That's what makes Amos, and "Humpback" so special, says Paner.

"You can go to just about any retention pond and see an alligator that's 3, 4, 5 feet long. It's when you get to the bigger ones you see something more unique," adds Paner.

"Any time you involve wildlife you have to remember not  to interfere with the wildlife and also you don't want to put yourself in harm's way."