Alligator 'rides' on manatee at Florida state park

ORANGE CITY, Fla. – Nearly every Floridian knows it's illegal to ride on a manatee, but that rule doesn't apply if you happen to be an alligator.

Florida woman Dana Menk managed to snap a photo of a scaly green reptile appearing to "ride" on top of a sea cow as the duo entered Blue Spring State Park in Orange City. The picture was posted to Florida Fish and Wildlife's Facebook page as part of a manatee photo contest.

Though it may look like the lazy gator is using the manatee to hitch a ride, a FWC manatee expert said the reptile actually just happened to be swimming over the sea cow when the picture was taken.

"I would guess that these manatees were hanging out near warm water or heading to warm water and the alligator was looking for a sunny spot to hang out along the shoreline and they simply crossed paths," Ron Mezich said in a statement.

Since alligators and manatees live in similar habitats it's not unusual to see them near each other, but there's no need to worry for the manatee's safety. The FWC said alligators are not a threat to manatees larger than a calf. 

Officials cited one instance where an alligator possibly attacked a calf, but incidents like that are rare, because manatees keep their calves close and out of harm's way. Additionally, a manatee's large size and shape make it difficult for gators to pose a significant threat.