SUMTER COUNTY, GA (WALB) - An alligator picture that was shared more than 1,000 times on social media proves to be more than just a hoax.
“You’re perfectly safe. These animals exist. They’ve been here for centuries, they’ve been existing with people for centuries and they’re gonna continue to,” said Brent Howze, a wildlife biologist for the Georgia Department of Natural Resources (DNR).
The gator was picked up by about three people Monday on the West side of Lake Blackshear off Stathem Lakefront Road in Sumter County.
A farmer called DNR after finding it in an irrigation ditch.
“He was 13 feet, four inches long, 57 inches in circumference to the chest and we estimate his weight between 700 and 750 pounds,” said Howze.
DNR believes the gator may have been 50 years old but researches are working to find the exact age.
He’d been in the ditch for about a week. It’s not common for gators to stay in a spot that long. He was found in poor condition and was believed to be dying, so he had to be euthanized.
“Once we got him on bank and could assess him, we noticed he had several injuries including previous gunshot wounds,” said Howze.
DNR said gators only get that big when they stay away from people.
“The majority of alligator, human interactions or alligator attacks that have happened are usually people waiting in a water body, that step on an alligator,” explained Howze.
Humans are not a food source for the four-legged animals. And hunting is a way to naturally keep the gator population from getting too high.
“As far as alligators just attacking people, it’s extremely rare,” said Howze.
The DNR has an alligator management plan that does surveys and looks at alligator trends in Georgia. They put yellow tags on their tails to watch and keep track of the population. If you’re out hunting and you see an alligator with a yellow tag, you should call the DNR at (229) 430-4254.
Alligator hunting season is Aug. 17 through Oct. 8. A permit is required to legally hunt alligators.