Discover the Biggest Alligator Ever Found in Florida

Written by Cindy Rasmussen
Updated: June 2, 2022
Image Credit Thierry Eidenweil/Shutterstock.com
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The first time you see an alligator in person, whether at a zoo or basking in the sun on the banks of a river at your local park (depending on your location of course), you may be surprised by how big they really are. The average full-grown male American alligator is between 10-15 feet long and weighs 500-1000 pounds.

For reference, your average mini-van is around 16 feet long! Alligators live in all 67 counties of Florida with a large population living in the Everglades. Alligators over 4 feet long can be reported and removed if they are on people’s property, but what about really big gators? What is the biggest alligator ever found in Florida?

Recent headline: “11-foot alligator found in family pool”

On May 19, 2022, the local news station in Punta Gorda, Florida reported about a family that woke up to find a large alligator hanging out in their backyard swimming pool! The Charlotte County Sheriff’s Office was called in to fish the gator out of the pool (wouldn’t want that job!). The deputies said the alligator was 11 feet long and weighed 550 pounds. Sounds big, but this is a pretty average-sized alligator. So what alligators in Florida have been found bigger than that?

What is the biggest alligator ever found in Florida?

Alligator near cypress trees
The biggest alligator ever found in Florida was 17 feet 5 inches!

jaimie tuchman/Shutterstock.com

According to the Key West Aquarium, the biggest alligator ever found in Florida was 17 feet 5 inches. Every year, researchers and conservationists perform an annual alligator census and go out at night to count alligators. Sounds scary! Alligators’ eyes glow red when reflecting light and workers count the number of eyes. They record the number of alligators in each location as well as the size, sometimes estimating the size by the distance between the eyes. Although a 17-foot 5-inch alligator is pretty big it is not the biggest ever found.

Like most records, there is considerable debate about the largest alligator on record, which we’ll explore in more detail.

What is the biggest alligator ever found in the US?

The biggest verified alligator ever is the “Stokes Gator”. It was caught by a hunter named Mandy Stokes who was an avid boar and deer hunter that tried alligator hunting with her family. They went out in a 17-foot aluminum boat to search along the tributaries of the Alabama River and that is where they found this record-breaking gator. There was no way they were going to get the alligator into the boat after she shot it so they have to tow it to shore, very carefully. When finally measured this beast came in at 15 feet and 9 inches and weighed 1,011.5 pounds!

What is the heaviest alligator in the world?

The heaviest alligator in the world is the “Mike Cottingham Gator” caught by taxidermist Mike Cottingham in Arkansas. It is good he had four of his friends with him because it took all 5 of them to finally get the gator in the boat. They couldn’t lift it so they had to park at a boat ramp and roll the gator in using ropes. They had the gator officially measured by Mike Harris, a wildlife technician with the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission. It beat the state record by 2 inches coming in at 13 feet 3 inches. He also had it weighed and is the heaviest gator at 1,380 pounds! As if that is not impressive enough, he reported that when he gutted the gator he found the remains of a 6-foot alligator in its stomach!

The debate around the longest alligator ever

As we noted earlier, claims of the biggest specimens for any species normally have competing claims with differing levels of being “verified.” So another contender for the title of largest alligator goes to a 19 foot 2 inch alligator found in Louisiana in 1890. The alligator was shot by Edmund McIlhenny, who later published a book on alligators. He reported the alligator was old enough its teeth had been worn down to be nearly non-existent.

One of the biggest alligators ever found in Florida was 1,008 pounds!

Alligator in Swamp
In 2020, a 13-foot alligator that weighed 1,008 pounds was found in Apalachicola, FL.

Thierry Eidenweil/Shutterstock.com

In 2020, Corey Capps was out on a boat ride when he noticed an awfully large alligator. He knew it had to be close to a record-breaker but he didn’t have a permit! He remembered one of his friends, Rodney Smith, that did have a tag that season and gave him a call. The next day they went out and captured and killed the giant gator. Corey was right, this was an enormous alligator that measured 13 feet and 1,008 pounds!

Bigger than that is the 14-foot gator found in Lake Talquin, Florida!

Part-time alligator trapper Lane Stephens was called to remove a “nuisance” gator that was thought to be 10 feet. Nuisance gators are considered any gator more than 4 feet long, especially if they end up in residential areas. With many alligator-infested lakes in Florida, he was not surprised by this call.

When he arrived he knew this one was more than 10 feet, by a lot! After a 3 ½ hour fight, he was able to kill the gator and tied it to the side of his boat to drag in. He saw right away that the gator was almost as long as his 14 ½ foot boat! Sure enough when they got to shore and got it measured it was 14 feet long and 1,000 pounds! The largest he had ever caught out of more than 100 gators.

“Large alligator blocks door to Central Florida elementary school”

This headline was posted on May 16, 2022 in St. Cloud Florida. Bet that got a few parents excited (and kids!). Police were called to the Michigan Avenue Elementary School in St. Cloud when an alligator was found in front of the cafeteria door (hungry for some fish and sticks?). The police were able to snag it and tape its mouth shut before hauling it away. They released it in a canal nearby. This did happen right around arrival time so plenty of kids got to witness the rogue gator. During May and June alligators are on the move looking for a mate so there are typically more sightings during these months. Was this a 14-foot gator? No, this “large alligator” was only 6 feet long, but still large enough to certainly disrupt a morning of school!

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About the Author

I'm a Wildlife Conservation Author and Journalist, raising awareness about conservation by teaching others about the amazing animals we share the planet with. I graduated from the University of Minnesota-Morris with a degree in Elementary Education and I am a former teacher. When I am not writing I love going to my kids' soccer games, watching movies, taking on DIY projects and running with our giant Labradoodle "Tango".

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