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Alligator missing top half of jaw recovered at Florida Gator Park

Jerry Flynn arrived at the Wekiva River canoe launch on a humid Thursday afternoon. He made a mating call and quickly found his prey: the alligator that had sparked concern and intrigue after a photo of the reptile. spread on social networks.

As soon as he ran out of the brush, Flynn knew he had the right animal. The entire top part of his snout was missing.

“I’ve been doing this for over 20 years,” Flynn, a licensed alligator hunter, told the Washington Post. “I’ve seen every type of missing piece on alligators you can imagine. “This is by far the most unusual thing I have ever seen.”

The alligator’s upper snout ended just below its eyes, leaving its mouth perpetually open and the lower half of its jaw protruding forward like a mysterious overbite. State wildlife officials had hoped to catch the alligator since it was stained at the end of August in Sanford, Florida. As a photo of his injury circulated, residents speculated about the gruesome incident that had torn off half of his snout and worried about the alligator’s health.

The lame reptile was thin and malnourished when Flynn and his son Chase, called in by the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, finally captured it weeks later, he said. 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 Gatorland conservationist Savannah Boan. “And really a story of resilience and how strong these animals are, and how they can do amazing things.”

Boan was less surprised than most to see the photo of the alligator’s injury. Missing upper jaw is not an uncommon injury in alligators, he said, and sometimes occurs when alligators fight with each other during their breeding season.

Flynn, who speculated that a boat propeller might be to blame, said he had caught alligators with injured upper jaws before, but never one with an injury as severe as the one that afflicted the viral star he captured on Thursday.

He marveled at the alligator’s resilience. His wound was healed, suggesting the injury occurred months ago. He lost the nasal glands on the top of his snout and was breathing through an exposed nasal cavity. Somehow, the alligator had survived without its sense of smell and the sharp bite with which it normally hunted.

“He’s done pretty well,” Flynn said.

Boan and Flynn said the alligator likely ate by stuffing smaller animals into the bottom half of its mouth.

“We think it was probably shoveling small snails, frogs, minnows and things like that with its lower jaw,” Boan said. “And like she put it back in her mouth.”

The alligator, a young female about three feet long, still had a lot of energy when Flynn delivered the reptile to the center on Friday, Boan said.

“She’s a feisty little thing,” Boan said. “She has a lot of spirit. When we first took her in, she moved everywhere.”

The alligator is quarantined in a private enclosure at Gatorland, Boan said. Gatorland staff and a veterinarian will check his health in the coming weeks and evaluate whether he should join the rest of the park’s alligators or remain alone.

Gatorland has taken in other alligators healing similar wounds who have since recovered, and Boan is optimistic that the alligator could eventually join the zoo’s other rehabilitated alligators: a blind alligator who has learned to follow Gatorland’s cane with the voice and another alligator that is missing its upper snout. named Trapjaw, who has been trained to eat meatballs specially prepared by the zoo.

Visitors have already begun clamoring to see the rescued alligator in person after its photo circulated online, Boan added. The zoo will have to make one more decision before boasting about his rescue: choose a name for him. Gatorland has requested submissions on social media and zoo staff will choose the one they like best, Boan said. Your current favorite tip from him? “Gummy.”

“She’s going to have a great life,” Boan said. “We are very happy to have her here.”

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