Orange Alligators Are Grabbing Eyeballs In South Carolina, Experts Warn People To Stay Away From Them

Orange Alligators Are Grabbing Eyeballs In South Carolina, Experts Warn People To Stay Away From Them

This is the second alligator that has been spotted with the myseterious orange coat its natural skin. Is this harmful to the alligators in any way?

When people spot animals that are not in their natural color - like white reindeer or black leopards - they tend to go crazy about it. It trends all over social media. These sightings are often celebrated by wildlife conservationists and animal lovers. However, this change in color is often caused by the lack of or excess amounts melanin in their skin. Well, that isn't the case with the 2 alligators that have mysteriously turned orange in color. This isn't the first time an orange reptile has been spotted. Two years go a man found a Cheetos-colored alligator in the Charleston area. Earlier this month, a Bluffton man found two orange alligators sunbathing next to a pond. According to David Lucas from the South Carolina Department of Natural Resources, the color might just be a result of rust from the draining pipes, close to where the reptiles hibernate.

The alligators were spotted by Chad Godwin. As reported by The Island Packet, the two alligators were approximately 4 to 5 feet long (each) and were resting near Cypress Ridge pond. Usually, the Lowcountry alligators are known to make headlines when they are extremely large in size. Or otherwise, when they do something strange like once, a gator ended up ringing a doorbell. Another time, one alligator ended up eating all Thanksgiving dinner, and one even fell asleep on someone's couch!

View this post on Instagram

#orangealligatorbad #orangemanbad #orangealligator #southcarolina

A post shared by David Safier (@superdavela1) on


The orange alligators have gone viral, of course. Some people on social media are joking that the reptiles are only showing their support towards the current president, Donald Trump. Other say that they are fans of the National Championship-winning football team, Clemson Tigers. However, there are many others who are taking this very seriously and pointing out that it is the result of pollution. This might be the closest they have gotten to the real answer. Experts are not yet sure what the color is and how it came to be, but they have their own opinions too.

View this post on Instagram

We have lots of gators around here, but an orange alligator is quite a sight! Photo by Kelly Jochim. #orangealligator #alligator #calabash #calabashnc

A post shared by WECT News (@wectnews) on


“It’s likely due to alligators hibernating somewhere near rust, like by an old drainage pipe,” David Lucas, spokesperson for SCDNR, told The Packet. “It’s like if you stuck your hand in a bucket of rusty water where the metal has been sitting for a while.”

Experts suggest that the alligators will soon return to their normal color after they shed their skin. According to Lucas, the coloration cannot be caused due to pollution in the water as the area has not seen many rusty colored reptiles, especially not in the past couple of years. 


He also mentioned that it wasn't a coincidence that we are getting to see so many alligators now. They usually come out of hibernation during this time of the year, so we might just see a couple more orange colored reptiles in the next couple of weeks. “February is typically when we start seeing alligators come out of hibernation for the first time,” Lucas said. “They’re not fully out of hibernation yet, but once they get away from the source of rust, the coloring will go back to normal.” However, there are other experts that believe it could be a result of pollution.


Josh Zalabak, a herpetologist with the South Carolina Aquarium, told WCBD News 2 that the reptile's skin could have been colored due to algae in the water or water pollutants. They believe that the coloration is only skin deep and should be gone in the next few weeks. In 2011, another alligator of the same color was spotted in Florida. This started speculations regarding whether it was just a result of pollution or if it were 'evolution in action'. That year, biologist David Steen wrote in a blog post that year about how the color is the result of something in the water. 

View this post on Instagram

A post shared by Laura Caisley-Uptain (@ellejayceeu) on


In fact, Steen had observed this phenomenon firsthand, in turtles that he'd captured years ago in New York State. He said, "I would occasionally visit ponds with water stained from naturally occurring sediment. As you might expect, the turtles I caught in these ponds were colored differently from those I caught elsewhere," he wrote. Experts across the country have warned that if people do come across differently colored reptiles, they need to maintain their distance from them, no matter how tempting it might be to take a snap with/of them.


Savannah River Ecology Lab (SREL) at the University of Georgia recommends that people maintain a distance of about 60 feet from the reptiles as they have just come out of hibernation and aren't fully awake yet. Waking them up fully can be dangerous. Also, when they come out of hibernation, they are usually hungry and are looking for prey. People shouldn't serve themselves to the predators while trying to take pictures. "Please remember that they are wild animals and should be respected as such," J. Whitfield Gibbons, director of outreach for SREL, said in the statement. "A few precautions on our part can help both humans and alligators coexist safely."


Recommended for you