It’s incredible what afflictions some wild animals can put up with in their fight for survival. This incident exemplifies that. On September 30, an alligator hunter in South Carolina brought their quarry—an 11-foot gator—to Cordray’s, a meat processing chop in Ravenel, South Carolina. But it there was something unusual about the dead gator; it had the fully formed 3×3 antler of a whitetail buck stuck in the tissue of its mouth.
“Talk about a mouthful!” wrote Cordray’s in a Facebook post. “This old 11-foot gator had a deer antler embedded in his lower jaw.”
Michael Cordray, the owner of the processing shop, took photos of the gator with the jammed antler and then removed it from the dead reptile’s mouth. The antler appears to be still attached to a small chunk of bone, signaling that it was taken from a dead deer the gator had killed or scavenged and not a shed antler.
“We determined it has been that way six months or less, and likely happened while the alligator was chewing,” Cordray told McClatchy News. “It surprised us, too. We’ve seen a lot of strange things but we’ve never seen anything like that. It just shows you the destructive power of an alligator, that they even try to eat the antlers… I’m guessing the deer was drinking water and the alligator popped out and grabbed it.”
American alligators are considered “opportunistic feeders” and are known to try to make a meal out of whatever food sources present themselves. According to The State, there are an estimated 100,000 alligators in the Palmetto State. The South Carolina Department of Natural Resources has held an annual recreational hunting season for the large reptiles since 2008.