Weighing in at an estimated 320 kilograms (~700 pounds), this alligator was recently caught lurking in an irrigation ditch near Lake Blackshear in Georgia. Along with measuring a lengthy 4 meters (13 feet) from tip to tail, this chunky fella also has a chest girth of 144 centimeters (57 inches).
"We have captured quite a few alligators, but none this large," Brent Howze, a DNR wildlife biologist, told CBS News.
"It was a little unnerving at first given its size and power, but I work with an amazingly talented group of folks and we were pretty confident we could deal with the situation," he added.
During the 20th century, American alligator populations across the southern states were decimated by overhunting and habitat loss. By the late 1980s, huge conservation efforts saw their numbers make a comeback and the critters are now thriving. It was a very unusual story of rapid collapse followed by a quick and complete recovery. While this is encouraging, their abundance means that populations have to be managed and hunted, especially if they are found in dangerous proximity to human populations or livestock.
The DNR noted that the individual was exceptionally old. They were even able to discern scars from old gunshot wounds along its body. Unfortunately, due to its poor health and age, they made the decision to euthanize the old beast.
“It’s an unfortunate situation, but the best thing for the animal was to put it down," Howze told the Cordele Dispatch.
“There’s only one way for an alligator to live this long, and it’s by avoiding humans.”
Photographs of the alligator were shared on social media and, as you can imagine, it went viral pretty quickly. However, not everyone was convinced the image is real. The DNR has since spoken out to confirm that this big 'gator is the real deal, although there might be a slight camera perspective trick going on.
“Apparently a lot of people think it’s fake, but I can assure you that it is not,” confirmed Howze, speaking to the Cordele Dispatch.
“I’m the one in the picture, and you can probably tell that I didn’t get too close to it.”