The claim: An alligator killed in Florida measured over 28 feet in length
As if murder hornets and megabats weren't enough to haunt people's dreams, claims of a massive, 28-foot alligator said to have been shot while creeping in the backyard of a Florida family's residence have added to the nightmares.
The post on the massive alligator, circulating widely on Facebook, shows a photograph of a large gator suspended by its neck from the loader of a piece of construction equipment. A game warden identified as Joe Goff, said to be 6 feet 5 inches tall, is walking near the gator in the photo, providing a sense of scale that shows the alligator is of significant size.
The Facebook post quotes what is said to be a radio traffic exchange between a helicopter pilot and game wardens at Lake Thomas, Florida, as they tracked a giant gator with a full-sized deer in its mouth.
After the alligator was killed, the post claims, it measured in at 28 feet, 1 inch. A Florida couple had supposedly claimed they could hear the gator "bellowing in the night" but had believed the stories of a giant reptile to be exaggerated. The gator was shot in their backyard.
Tale likely exaggerates a 2005 incident in Texas with a much smaller gator
Social media posts making claims about oversized alligators have circulated for years. In 2005, Snopes published a fact-check saying the photo in question was real, but the information about the alligator's length had been exaggerated. It also didn't take place in Florida.
But parts of the scenario in the story involving the couple who owned the backyard where the alligator was shot were taken nearly word-for-word from an article published April 16, 2005, in The Facts, a newspaper in Brazoria County, Texas.
According to the article, the West Columbia couple, whose names are identical to those in the Facebook post, had dismissed their neighbors' stories as an exaggeration but had also heard the gator making noise in the night. The game warden, also named Joe Goff, was among those who shot the alligator because it was too large to capture.
The alligator measured in at 13 feet 1 inch, which is large for an alligator but less than half the size the Facebook post claims.
The online news article reviewed by USA TODAY did not include an image. An email to The Facts to confirm the image was not immediately returned.
Longest alligator recorded in Florida was just over 14 feet
While alligators can reach large sizes, a 28-foot gator is more likely to show up in a monster movie than real life.
According to National Geographic, the American alligator can measure 10 to 15 feet and weigh as much as 1,000 pounds.
There have been various tales of large alligators killed in the U.S. throughout history, including a claim by naturalist Edward McIlhenny who said he killed a 19-foot-2 alligator in 1890, when he was 17 years old. The facts of that incident are in dispute, however, partly because McIlhenny measured the alligator using his shotgun barrel and has been described as a known "yarn-spinner."
If the alligator in the photograph were truly 28 feet long, it would be twice the size of the longest alligator recorded by biologists with the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, which measured 14 feet, 3½ inches.
Melody Kilborn, public information director for the FWC's southwest region, said staff were not aware of the rumors about a 28-foot alligator roaming in Florida, but that alligators rarely exceed 14 feet.
According to data from Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, only four alligators, all of them male, have measured more than 14 feet since the records began in 1977, according to the data.
Fact check: 'Megabats' exist, and they're, well, mega
Our ruling: False
The Facebook post appears to have exaggerated and misinterpreted a largely true account of an alligator being shot. Portions of the narrative of this Facebook post come directly from a news article written about an alligator in Texas, not Florida, that measured less than half the length described in the post.
There is no credible record of an American alligator measuring anywhere near 28 feet in Florida, or any other state.
For these reasons, we rate this post as FALSE.
Our fact-check sources:
The Facts: Game wardens forced to shoot alligator
Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission: Physical measurements taken from the 10 largest male and female alligators taken from the wild in Florida
National Geographic: American Alligator
Post and Courier: Largest alligator a fibber's tale?
Country Roads: McIlhenny's World-Record Alligator?
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This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Fact check: Game wardens did not shoot a 28-foot alligator in Florida