WATCH: 'Trumpagator' Sighting In South Carolina: Why This Alligator Looks Like A Cheeto
Alligators are vicious predators in the water, and people are usually wary of the powerful beast when swimming or loitering around ponds and lakes. One alligator, however, is the talk of the town for a different reason: the color of its skin.
We have seen huge alligators and albino alligators but a Cheeto-colored gator is really quite unheard of, so it is no surprise that a quick snapshot of the creature quickly became viral.
On Feb. 7, a photo of a 4 to 5 feet long orange alligator made its rounds on social media after residents of Hanahan in South Carolina spotted the creature lounging around in a pond at the Tanner Plantation. Its orange-tinted skin quickly earned it the nickname of "Trumpagator" from social media folks.
Take a look at the viral photo below.
Of course, many people are baffled at the sight of an orange gator because it just seems so unnatural, but animal experts shared their theories on what could have possibly turned Trumpagator's skin orange. Hint: it has nothing to do with tanning lotion.
Theory #1: Hibernation Location
Most people know that gators are animals that hibernate during the winter months, so Peter Critchlow, park manager of the Critchlow Alligator Sanctuary located in Michigan, believes that Trumpagator's skin turned orange from whatever was in the area it hibernated in.
Critchlow explained that alligators usually go into caves to hibernate but, considering the location of the Tanner Plantation, Trumpagator must have entered a culvert instead, thinking it was a nice, safe cave.
"The orange color could be due to iron oxide from clay or mud. Another way to put it is that the alligator might have gotten into rusty mud," he said.
Theory #2: Algae Or Pollutants
Josh Zalabak, a herpetologist, believes that either algae or pollutants in the water could have caused the discoloration. Since the Tanner Plantation is a residential area, Zalabak thinks that it would be difficult to pinpoint exactly where the pollutant originated, if this is indeed the cause.
"Algae — maybe some pollutant in the water, but it's hard to say unless the water is tested," he said.
Theory #3: Pranksters
News correspondent Travis Rice has another plausible theory: pranksters. In the video below, Rice says that the Hanahan School colors are orange and blue — similar to Trumpagator's current skin color — and the residents agree to the possibility.
Whatever the case, Trumpagator's orange tint is only temporary since gators shed their skin at varying intervals. Trumpagator will return to being a normal gator in a few weeks or months. However, it would still be better if someone actually tests the water just to make sure it's not brimming with pollutants.