Monday, 10 January 2011

Orange Gator Discovered in Florida, But Is It a Dye Job?

Sylvia Mythen, a 74-year-old woman from Venice, Fla., snapped the photo of this orange alligator sunning itself by a pond near her home. Florida Wildlife Commission experts have analyzed the photo and determined that the reptile's coloring is not genetic. Officials suspect the animal might be the victim of a prank but won't know for sure until they can examine it. Sylvia Mythen, AP.
Jan 7, 2011 – 6:51 PM
Dave Thier

College football fans know the Florida Gators are orange and blue, but that, of course, is just a uniform.

In the wild, Florida alligators are a grayish black on top, with a lighter-colored belly. Usually.

One alligator in Venice, Fla., defies that rule. On Tuesday, 74-year-old Sylvia Mythen discovered an orange alligator sunning itself in a pond near her home, and it was so surprising that she had to get her camera.

After Mythen snapped the photo, she contacted her local news station and a biologist. But really, she just wanted to show her grandkids in Indiana.

"I thought, 'This is great. ... I'm going to snap a picture and send it to my grandkids so they think I'm one of the coolest grandmas in Florida,' " she told ABC 7.

Originally, the biologist thought the alligator could be part albino, but experts with the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission have analyzed the images, and they have determined that the animal's coloring is not genetic. They suspect that the gator's coloring came from something in the environment.

Mud is a possibility, but Mythen is skeptical.

"If it was mud, he did a good job of covering himself ... every nook and cranny," she says.

Geoff Isles, district manager for an wildlife control company in Sarasota, Fla., is stymied.

"I would have no idea how to dye an alligator -- especially a normal skin-toned alligator in his natural state," he told AOL News. "Their skin is just so extremely thick that I don't know how, short of tattooing, you would get it that color."

He suspects a prank, especially considering the animal's strangely similar tone to the university mascot. The only way he said he could think of getting that done would be by using spray paint.

Theories abound, but until experts get their hands on the animal itself, it seems unlikely they'll be able to say anything definitive. Until then, maybe look for a UF fan with a few missing fingers and some empty cans of orange spray paint.

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