An alligator missing the top half of its jaw was rescued last week and taken to a crocodile sanctuary in Orlando, Florida.
According to a statement posted online, Gatorland Orlando received the meter-long female alligator this weekend after a photo of the reptile missing part of its jaw went viral on social media.
Gatorland Orlando member Jerry Flynn arrived at the canoe launch site on the Wekiva River and quickly found his prey: the alligator, which had sparked concern and intrigue because the entire upper portion of its snout was missing.
“I’ve been doing this for over 20 years,” said Flynn, a licensed alligator trapper. “I’ve seen every type of missing part you can imagine on alligators.
The tip of the alligator’s snout ended just below the eyes, leaving the mouth open and the lower half of the jaw protruding forward.
State wildlife officials had hoped to capture the alligator since it was spotted in Sanford, Florida, in late August.
As a photo of his wound went viral, residents speculated about the gruesome incident that left half his snout ripped off and worried about the animal’s health.
The reptile was thin and malnourished when Flynn and his son Chase finally caught it at the request of the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission.
Now the alligator has a new home at Gatorland, an alligator zoo in Orlando, where he is recovering under the center’s care.
“It’s going to be a great success story,” said Savannah Boan of the Gatorland team. “And really a story about resilience and how strong these animals are and how they can do incredible things.”
The missing upper jaw is not an uncommon injury in alligators, he explained, and sometimes occurs when alligators fight with each other during their breeding season.
Flynn, who suspected a boat propeller was to blame, said he’s caught alligators with injured upper jaws before, but never one with an injury as serious as the viral star he caught Thursday.
Boan and Flynn said the alligator likely ate by picking up smaller animals in the lower half of its mouth.