SUMTER COUNTY, GA -- An image of a giant alligator in Georgia has been getting a lot of attention on social media. It turns out the 13-foot gator is not a fake.
"You're perfectly safe. These animals exist. They've been here for centuries. They've been existing with people for centuries, and they're gonna continue to," says wildlife biologist Brent Howze with the Georgia Department of Natural Resources.
The gator was picked up by about three people Monday on the west side of Lake Blackshear off Stathem Lakefront Road in Sumter County.
A farmer called the Georgia Department of Natural Resources after finding it in an irrigation ditch. “He was 13 feet, four inches long. 57 inches in circumference to the chest and we estimate his weight between 700 and 750 pounds," says Howze.
DNR believes the gator may have been 50 years old but researches are working to find the exact age.
He'd been in the ditch for about a week.
It's not common for gators to stay in a spot that long. He was found in poor condition and was believed to be dying, so he had to be euthanized.
“Once we got him on bank and could assess him, we noticed he had several injuries including previous gunshot wounds."
DNR says gators only get that big when they stay away from people. "The majority of alligator-human interactions or alligator attacks that have happened are usually people waiting in a water body, that step on an alligator," says Howze.
Humans are not a source of food for the for legged animals. And hunting is a way to naturally keep the gator population from getting too high.
Georgia's alligator management plan includes surveys and examines alligator trends in the state. Yellow tags are put on alligator tails so they can watch and track the population.
Hunters who find an alligator with a yellow tag are asked to call Georgia's Department of Natural Resources.
Alligator hunting season in the state runs from August 17th to October 8th, and hunting requires a permit.