On May 8, 2021, a 22-year-old Florida fisherman named Tommy Lee posted a viral video to his Chum Dumpster YouTube channel titled “Chased By Big Alligator!” that showed his experience with confronting an alligator that chased him after he reeled it in while fishing. The video has been viewed more than 4 million times and has received over 58,000 upvotes as of September 29, 2021.

Lee was fishing in the Everglades for tarpon, a type of edible fish found in the Atlantic and nearby waters when he started having difficulty with reeling in what he thought was merely a big fish. Instead, he hooked an alligator and soon saw its head surfacing above the water. He cursed and noted that he had to be careful. As he backed away from the water while tugging the reel and pole, the bull alligator started to come toward him. He tried to flee backward while still pulling on the pole, but he lost control of his footing as he fled and fell with his camera, which was attached to his body, and temporarily lost focus on the gator. He then got back up, fixed the camera, and learned that the 11-foot alligator was only a few feet away from him. At that point, Lee proclaimed that the encounter had put an end to his tarpon fishing. He said “Wow” and then, for a moment, walked slowly toward the alligator. He stumped his foot and tried to scare it away by saying, “Get back.” The gator decided to instead run toward him. After it eventually stopped chasing him, but through his line and returned to the water, Lee said, “And I am out of here. Screw that.” Later, he recounted that he used a wide-angle GoPro camera that day and that the camera didn’t do a good job of recording the size of the gator or distances. He stated that the alligator was within 10 feet of him at one point and a lot bigger in person. He also implied that he understood the danger after confronting the gator didn’t scare it.

Yet, May is well-known by Florida fishermen as one of two months that alligators are more prone to act confrontationally because of mating season. Residents of Florida are taught to never confront an alligator. In the video, Lee also seemed to try to get the alligator to chase him. He yelled at it, “Hey. Hey buddy,” and chased behind it on a narrow path through thick grass after it broke his line and started back toward the water. As many YouTube users and others have pointed out since the video went viral, Lee was incredibly lucky. Alligators are one of the few prehistoric creatures on the planet to survive mostly unchanged since the time of the dinosaurs. They’re apex predators that can run up to 35 miles per hour on dry land. Although they tire out quickly, alligators can usually catch up to and grasp with sharp teeth and strong jaws extremely fast animals. A top Olympic-level sprinter can’t maintain the speeds necessary to escape an alligator that’s within 10 feet and running at top speed let alone people who aren’t professional runners. Additionally, many alligators use tall grass to hide while stalking potential prey. The alligator that Lee hooked might not have been the only one in the area. Other Florida residents who have commented on the video have stated that Lee’s experience is an excellent example of how to get killed by an alligator and should serve as a warning to others.