raccoon on alligator

Alligator taxis may be convenient, but the rates will bite you in the end. (Photo: Richard Jones)

It was weird enough when a weasel rode a woodpecker in London a few months ago. But now a new photo from Florida — where else? — appears to show a raccoon standing on the back of an alligator.

The improbable scene was captured this weekend in the Ocala National Forest, where a family from nearby Palatka was enjoying a walk in the woods. In an email to the Florida Times-Union, Richard Jones explains that his family was exploring the Ocklawaha River and "watching some gators warm up in the morning" when his son accidentally startled a raccoon. The mammal leapt onto an object in the water to escape, according to Jones, presumably not realizing the object was an alligator.

"My son went through some palm fronds to catch a different angle and frightened a raccoon," Jones writes. "It must have been asleep because it stumbled toward the water and hopped on top of the gator we were watching."

Jones managed to take a photo, which makes it look as if the raccoon is riding the gator like a stand-up paddleboard. In reality, however, these two animals have little reason to team up. Not only are raccoons on the menu for adult alligators, but raccoons regularly feed on the reptiles' hatchlings. About 80 percent of all young alligators fall victim to opportunistic birds and raccoons, according to the Smithsonian.

And despite the appearance of collaboration — maybe an "Uber-like service," as Joshua Chavers of West Palm Beach's WPTV joked on Twitter — the encounter lasted just a few seconds, Jones says.

"I snapped a lucky picture right when the gator slipped into the water and before the raccoon jumped off and scurried away," he writes. "Without the context you'd think the raccoon was hitching a ride across the river. Pretty amazing. Definitely the photo of a lifetime."

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Russell McLendon ( @russmclendon ) writes about humans and other wildlife.