SANIBEL, Fla.- A gator was spotted in the Gulf, off of Sanibel Island on Sunday. WINK first brought you the exclusive story last night. An alligator was spotted along the shoreline of Lighthouse Beach. It's a story drawing a lot of attention on our WINK News Facebook page.
"If your swimming and it doesn't know your coming and you don't know it's coming, it could be a shocker!" said resident Lucas Century.
A gator spotted right where the water breaks on the Sanibel shoreline, but we're learning this sighting is not unusual.
"First thing, he's a big one! Second thing, they don't belong here. I've been coming here 10-15 years and I've never seen an alligator out on the beach," said visitor Ron Britney.
A Wildlife Refuge Specialist with Ding Darling said alligators typically find their comfort in estuaries because the salinity levels are a lot lower than on the beach.
"This has been an usually wet season because of the rain and we know during rainy season alligators usually migrate out of freshwater ponds, but when the salinity level estuaries drop with the increased rain, or in this case, Lake O to the Caloosahatchee," said Wildlife Refuge Specialist Jeremy Conrad.
But officials can't pin point why the reptile made it's quick appearance. They say they cannot directly tie the gator and the Lake O releases together.
"If he's in good health, he will make his way back to a freshwater environment, maybe back into the streams, but he may have made it out of the ocean if there wasn't so many people on the beach and worked his way back into a pond some place," said Conrad.
But FWC said an increase in freshwater does make an alligators travel a lot easier, using the saltwater as a connecting highway to different areas of freshwater.
"The water maybe more favorable for it to be comfortable in, This creates an issue for us, doesn't it?"
According to Ding Darling, this is the first report of an alligator on the beach this year. The city has been notified. Also, the Army Corp of Engineers has decided to cut back on the releases by 40 percent.