A cop on foot patrol found a very large alligator sleeping on one of Florida’s Gulf Coast beaches, and things only got stranger from there.
It happened May 11 on Treasure Island, with a photo shared by police showing the officer got no response when he tapped the gator’s tail.
That’s because it wasn’t real.
“Look at the size of that gator one of our officers tried rounding up on Treasure Island Beach last night!” the Treasure Island Police Department wrote on Facebook.
“OK, it wasn’t a real gator, it was just a crafty crafted sand sculpture.”
Luckily, the prank was revealed before it traumatized any early morning beachgoers.
The identity of the officer was not released, but the photo shows he was prepared to challenge an alligator nearly twice his size.
He made the discovery while on routine beach patrol on Treasure Island, a barrier island about 28 miles southwest of Tampa.
Once the officer discovered it was just sand, he flattened it out for the sake of both people and wildlife, officials said.
May is sea turtle nesting season in Florida, and elaborate sculptures are among the obstructions that can prevent turtles from digging their nests.
“We love the talented people creating works of art in the sand, but with it being turtle nesting season, remember to flatten sandcastles/sculptures before you leave. The sea turtles will thank you,” police wrote.
The post had gotten more than 1,000 reactions and comments as of May 15, with many noting the sculpture was both creative and frightening.
“Oh my Gosh, for a second there, my breath left my body!” Melody Helenek Terrana Reveron posted on Facebook.
“Kind of funny to think about what people thought the next morning when they showed up to the beach,” Carl Slaughter wrote.
“Can you imagine walk up to this in the dark! Real or not I would be running,” Brock-Trishel Owens Florida said.