Florida's Myakka State Forest has quite a history with its "monsters". It was once best known -- at least as far as monster-hunting circles go -- for a series of photos purporting to show a "skunk ape" prowling for apples in one of its nearby residential areas. The origins of the image, submitted anonymously to the Sarasota County Police Department on December 22, 2000, remain inconclusive.
However, now it would appear that there is a new monster in town. On Thursday, May 26, photos and video appeared online showing a gator on the Myakka Pines Golf Club in nearby Englewood that was so big that many viewers likely assumed it was an online hoax.
Nicknamed "Goliath" by the staff at the golf course in question, the monster was initially believed to be between 12 and 13 feet in length. But new estimates of the animal's size indicate that it may be closer to 14 feet, and weighing in at around 780 pounds.
One year ago, photos of Goliath snacking on what appeared to be a large snapping turtle in one of the course's many ponds were posted online via the Myakka Pines Golf Club's Twitter Account. However, the latest images and video, taken by golfers as the gator strolled by a short distance away, help show the true enormousness of this holdover from Earth's prehistoric past.
Goliath isn't the only monster gator making headlines in Florida. In April, Okeechobee residents Lee Lightsey and Blake Godwin managed to capture an alligator they found in a cattle pond on their land, which had been making regular meals of the cattle on their farm. The creature was nearly 15-feet-long, and weighed more than 800 pounds.
University of Florida researchers also announced within the last few weeks that wild Nile crocodiles have been discovered living out of captivity in the Sunshine State, which qualifies the beast among the state's most recent additions to its invasive species list. And if you thought Myakka's "Goliath" was a whopper, experts warn that Nile crocodiles can grow up to 18 feet in length.
Nile crocodiles are, apart from their massive size, nearly identical to the American variety of the species. Citing an interview with Frank Mazzotti of the Fort Lauderdale Research and Education Center, Newsweek reported that, “The American crocodile is one of the most gentle species of crocodilian... On the other hand, when Nile crocs are in their native habitat, fully grown adults are much more prone to looking at humans as food.” Mazzotti says that their American cousins don’t eat humans.
To end on a decidedly cryptozoological note, as reports of massive alligators and crocodiles appear to be on the rise in Florida, there is one thing that may be coming to light from all this: if sightings of Myakka's famous "skunk ape" appear to be in decline, now maybe we are beginning to understand why. After all, reptilian monsters like Goliath would have to be well fed on something to be able to grow that big, right?