A wildlife photographer captured a “sweet and simple connection” between two young alligators who appeared to be hugging at a Florida nature park.
Michelle Siefken posted the photo on her Instagram — @michellesiefkenphotography — in late July, and it shows the gators lying side by side at the water’s edge, one with its front leg draped over the back of the other.
“I was so taken by the two young gators ‘hugging’ when I spotted them,” Siefken told McClatchy News in an email. “It’s likely they are siblings and have probably been together since birth.”
Siefken took the photo at Paynes Prairie Preserve State Park in Micanopy, about 100 miles northwest of Orlando. The park protects 22,000 acres of wet and dry savannah and is home to nearly 300 species of birds, as well as alligators, bison and wild horses.
The gators, which aren’t typically thought of as cuddly creatures, were likely using each other’s body warmth and regulating their body temperatures, Siefken wrote.
No matter the reason for their closeness, it was a rare and special moment Siefken said she was happy to witness.
“I have seen and photographed many alligators, but never before have I captured this sweet and simple connection between two little ones,” she wrote. “When I move beyond the scientific explanation, I smile thinking about the possibility of something more.”
Madeleine List is a McClatchy National Real-Time reporter. She has reported for the Cape Cod Times and the Providence Journal.