Alligator missing upper jaw rescued in Florida. Here’s what’s next

Rescued reptile taken in by Gatorland

SANFORD, Fla. – A young alligator missing most of its upper jaw was rescued Thursday evening in Seminole County after photos of the injured animal circulated on social media.

The gator initially evaded capture when it was first spotted last week at Wilson’s Landing in Sanford, yet trappers working with the Statewide Nuisance Alligator Program were since able to catch the smaller reptile, according to Katrina Shadix, executive director at Bear Warriors United.

Shadix had maintained several social media posts updating the search effort, capping them with a “spectacular update” that the gator had been caught, was safely resting and would be transported Friday to a care facility.

Shadix said she got the good news via text while sitting in a Seminole County Animal Services board meeting, there to speak out against the use of snare traps which she believes could be to blame for the alligator’s appearance.

“Hopefully this will help the poor lil gator get help and shine a light on the horrors of snare traps,” Shadix said in one of the posts. “Snares are being used throughout Florida, the US and the world. I have an ongoing six-year battle with the Florida Fish & Wildlife Commission to ban snares, steel jaw traps and conibear traps.”

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At latest, News 6 has confirmed the rescued reptile was sent to Gatorland, its new home.

We caught up with Mike Hileman, one of the park directors at Gatorland, on Saturday. He spoke with us over Zoom to describe the alligator, its injuries, and its future at Gatorland — identifying it as a 3-to-4 year old female, weighing about 18 pounds — even holding the critter at about chest height during the interview.

“This alligator sustained an injury that kind of took off her top jaw, and they’d been trying to catch her unsuccessfully,” Hileman said. “...She’s our newest member to the Gatorland family and she’s a little bit skinny right now but we’re gon’ get her all fattened up.”

Hileman said the injury appeared to be an older one that’s since healed over.

“Don’t know exactly what happened. It could’ve been a number of things, could have been another alligator, maybe even a boat propeller because it’s a pretty clean injury that went across, but it sealed over, she’s been eating,” Hileman said. “...This isn’t the first type of alligator we have taken in with this type of injury. We’ve had several others and we’ve been able to keep those healthy, growing. They’re now years old and I don’t see any other reasons why this one can’t do the same thing.”

With the alligator in quarantine for the time being, the reptile park is urging people to visit its social media channels to suggest names for the little lady.

The FWC at the time of this report has not commented on the possibility that an as yet legal trap was responsible for the gator’s injuries, yet it did provide the following tips to keep in mind should you ever encounter an alligator:

  • Keep a safe distance if you see an alligator. If someone is concerned about an alligator, they should call FWC’s toll-free Nuisance Alligator Hotline at 866-FWC-GATOR (866-392-4286), and we will dispatch a contracted nuisance alligator trapper to resolve the situation.
  • Keep pets on a leash and away from the water’s edge. Pets often resemble alligators’ natural prey.
  • Swim only in designated swimming areas during daylight hours and without your pet. Alligators are most active between dusk and dawn.
  • Never feed an alligator. It’s illegal and dangerous. When fed, alligators can lose their natural wariness and instead learn to associate people with the availability of food. This can lead to dangerous circumstances for yourself and other people who could encounter the alligator in the future.

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About the Author:

Brandon, a UCF grad, joined the ClickOrlando team in November 2021. Before joining News 6, Brandon worked at WDBO.