Florida is known for its alligators, but not all gators are built the same.
Take Fabio, for instance.
When Ken Bergquist started going to the Circle B Bar Reserve in Lakeland in the middle of 2022, he caught glimpses of the notorious gator.
Bergquist saw Fabio, named by the locals, lying on the trail every now and then, he told McClatchy News in a Facebook message, but it remained motionless, soaking in the sun.
He goes to the reserve two or three times per week, he said, but it wasn’t until Feb. 3 that he saw the gator in action.
“We had watched him swimming from farther out from shore coming towards the trail for 30 to 45 minutes before he found the spot he apparently wanted to cross,” Bergquist said. “He was very quiet coming out of the water, we knew where he was from watching him.”
Approaching the path, the gator pulled itself out of the water, lifting an enormous body, and slowly strutted across the reserve path, a video taken by Bergquist shows.
“He’s definitely 12 feet long, possibly a few inches more,” Bergquist said. “I’ve seen many cross trails, but never a really huge one. I was in awe.”
Bergquist and his wife Lisa were joined by other onlookers as they took in Fabio’s massive size.
He said it’s hard to know if Fabio is the largest gator in the reserve, but he’s “definitely one of the biggest.”
A week earlier, the couple had seen a roughly 9-foot alligator in another part of the reserve, Bergquist said, and he put the two photos next to each other to show how big Fabio is.
“Most times gators are seen in water. When they’re walking on land you can really see how big they are,” Bergquist said. “It’s like seeing a dinosaur.”
The reserve, a 1,267-acre property in Polk County, is known for offering unique access to the state’s iconic reptile — and the wild world they inhabit.
Gators there have been known to climb over fences, fight with other animals over food and protect their own with extremely strong jaws.
But the sheer size of the gators that call Circle B Reserve home has been shocking visitors for a long time.
In a video shared by the Lakeland Police Department in 2017, an enormous alligator was seen crossing another path in the reserve in a similar slow strut.
Bergquist said the reserve is busiest during the winter months when seasonal residents, or “snowbirds,” are in Florida, and visitors come to the park on weekends.
On Feb. 3, the crowd of visitors stopped to watch Fabio put on a show.
Despite being in the reserve often, Bergquist said it’s still exciting to see reptiles of this size up close.
“Oh I loved seeing it!” he said.
Circle B Reserve is about 40 miles east of Tampa.
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