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Photos of Big Gator With a Deer in its Mouth

Summary:
Photographs circulating via email show a large alligator with a full-grown deer in its mouth (Full commentary below.)



Status:
The photographs are authentic but the accompanying text is inaccurate.

Example:(Submitted, August 2006)
This picture was taken by a KTBS helicopter flying over Lake Conroe !

(For those of you who are not local, Lake Conroe is near Conroe, TX .)

That has to be a HUGE gator to have a whole deer in its mouth!

Are you ready to go skiing on Lake Conroe ?!
If you ski at the west end of the lake -- try not to fall.

Gator with deer in its mouth

Another view of the gator with deer.

Photos by Terri Jenkins, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service





Commentary:
This email forward arrives with photographs that show a very large alligator swimming with a fully grown deer in its mouth. The photographs have been circulating, along with variants of the email message shown above, since 2004. According to this version of the message, the photographs were taken from the KTBS helicopter over Lake Conroe, Texas. Other versions of the message use alternative locations, including Lake George (Florida), Cross Lake (Louisiana) and Lake Murray (South Carolina).

The photographs are genuine. However, they were not taken over Lake Conroe or any of the other locations mentioned. Nor were they taken from a news helicopter. In fact, the photographs were taken by Terri Jenkins, of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in a wildlife refuge near Savannah, Georgia . According to information in a 2004 U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service Press Release:
The photographs of this deer-eating alligator were taken from the air by Terri Jenkins, a U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service District Fire Management Officer. She was preparing to ignite a prescribed fire at Harris Neck National Wildlife Refuge, about 40 miles south of Savannah, Georgia, on March 4, 2004.

Jenkins took the photographs from a U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service helicopter used for igniting controlled fires. She estimates that the alligator was at least 12 or 13 feet long.



Alternative versions of the message:
This was taken by a KTBS helicopter flying over Cross Lake! (For those of you who are not local, Cross Lake is in Shreveport, La.) That has to be a HUGE gator to have a whole deer in its mouth! Are you ready to go skiing on Cross Lake?! If you ski at the west end of the lake -- try not to fall.

This was taken by a KTBS helicopter flying over Lake George! (For those of you who are not local, Lake George is in Ocala FL.) That has to be a HUGE gator to have a whole deer in its mouth! Are you ready to go skiing on Lake George?! If you ski at the west end of the lake -- try not to fall. Keep scrolling - there are 2 photos

This picture was taken by the WIS News Hawk helicopter flying over Lake Murray! That has to be a huge gator to have a whole deer in its mouth! Are you ready to go skiing on Lake Murray?! If you ski at the Irmo end of the lake -- try not to fall!"

References:
Press Release: Alligator Takes Deer to Lunch in South Georgia
Harris Neck National Wildlife Refuge
Alligators - E V E R G L A D E S N A T I O N A L P A R K

Last updated: 7th August 2006
First published: 7th August 2006

Write-up by Brett M.Christensen