While wandering through Circle B Bar Reserve, a former cattle ranch turned nature reserve in Polk County, Florida, a group of outdoors-men spotted an unusual sight – an alligator with what appears to be a very full belly snoozing in the sun with a feather resting on its snout.
After snapping a few pictures of the sleepy alligator, Amanda Braden, a member of the group, posted them to Facebook, at which point the internet promptly fell in love with the unusual gator.
“Looks like he had a big meal and went into a food coma, needed a nap. Look at that big belly,” one user said with a laugh. “That’s his ‘bait,'” another said of the snoozing alligator’s jaunty avian accessory. “A tourist will walk up thinking the gator is fake and try to grab the feather. Last week he got one from Iowa and two from Jersey.”
“The feather is a common gator hunting practice,” joked a third. “They place feathers on their jaws to attract birds. Once the bird is within distance, he will grab it. He then will save a single feather and add it to the others. After many kills, he can eventually make himself a headdress.”
According to Braden, the gator was as lazy as could be. Dozens of visitors walked past and the alligator didn’t show the slightest interest, he just kept on snoozing. The sleeping giant clearly hadn’t had the easiest life, however, as a large portion of his tail was missing.
Why Was the Snoozing Alligator Missing His Tail?
An alligator’s tail is crucial to its survival. While under the water, alligators keep their front legs tucked against their body and their back legs immobile, instead using their long, powerful tails in a sweeping motion to propel themselves forward.
Luckily, the snoozing alligator was only missing a part of his tail, not the whole thing. The missing portion of the appendage likely doesn’t greatly impede his ability to swim and hunt. Still, though, how did it happen?
Well, it’s possible that it lost a piece of its tail in a fight with another alligator. As Jim Darlington, a curator of reptiles at St. Augustine Farm Zoological Park in Florida, explained, alligators often lose their tails before they reach maturity.
“It can happen during a dispute, like a territorial fight,” he told Newsweek. “Or many injuries like that can happen when multiple animals are eating together on large prey and accidents happen. You won’t see alligators fighting over food too often, but you may see more than 1 alligator trying to eat the same carcass.”
Unfortunately, it’s equally likely that the snoozing alligator lost a portion of its tail due to humans. When alligators are struck by vehicles, they often lose their tail from the damaged area to the tip. The gator’s tail might grow back, but given his size and age, it’s more likely he’ll be tail tip-less for the rest of his life.
“Alligators, like many reptiles, have the ability to regenerate their tails,” explained Bruce Young, a reptile neurobiologist. “But the regeneration is a slow process, particularly in larger alligators.”