SUMTER, Ga. — As pictures of the massive 700-pound alligator spread across social media this week, many thought it was a hoax. Turns out it wasn't. The alligator is real and was living along Lake Blackshear, according to the Georgia Department of Natural Resources.
The alligator was found in an irrigation ditch off of Lake Blackshear, according to Melissa Cummings with the Georgia DNR. It was 13 feet 4 inches long and weighed approximately 700 pounds.
According to the biologist, the animal had been in the irrigation ditch for close to a week, which Cummings said was very unusual behavior. Once it moved to land, biologists noticed several old gunshot wounds on the animal. However, because of its poor health, the alligator had to be put down, Cummings said.
“It’s a testament to Georgia’s alligator management program that alligators can grow to this size,” she said. “The only way these animals get this large is by avoiding humans.”
This alligator got pretty close to being the largest ever found in Georgia. The largest alligator ever recorded during Georgia’s alligator hunting season was 14 feet long. It was found in Lake Walter F. George and harvested in 2015.
The heaviest alligator that was hunted in 2011 was 860 pounds and 13 feet 4 inches long, Cummings said.
According to the Georgia Wildlife alligator fact sheet, male alligators can grow up to 16 feet in length, although 14 foot long gators are rare. Female alligators can grow up to 10 feet.