Alligator who dominated America’s largest swamp and won a legion of fans dies aged 80

Okefenokee Joe was 11ft long and weighed over 400 pounds, as researchers thank him for ‘contributions to science’

Arpan Rai
Monday 13 September 2021 13:39
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<p>At 11 feet, 5 inches long, Okefenokee Joe weighed more than 400 pounds, and was the largest alligator tagged by the Coastal Ecology Lab in Georgia’s Okefenokee Swamp Park </p>

At 11 feet, 5 inches long, Okefenokee Joe weighed more than 400 pounds, and was the largest alligator tagged by the Coastal Ecology Lab in Georgia’s Okefenokee Swamp Park

A much-loved alligator who dominated North America’s largest swamp has died at almost 80 years of age.

The death of alligator Okefenokee Joe, an inhabitant of Georgia’s Okefenokee Swamp Park, was announced by the University of Georgia Marine Extension and Georgia Sea Grant’s Coastal Ecology Lab on Facebook last week after his satellite tag went unresponsive.

Officials ruled out any suspicious reasons for the death.

“Okefenokee Joe, one of the alligators in our satellite tag study sponsored by Okefenokee Swamp Park, has passed away due to old age,” the Coastal Ecology Lab said on Facebook. “Okefenokee Joe was revered as the dominant male alligator in the Park for a while.”

Officials believe the alligator died on 20 July as his satellite tag did not record any activities after that day. They added that they had initially hoped the tag had simply fallen off Joe “as it had been several weeks since we had received any GPS points from him”.

“Oke Joe passed in a remote and secluded place in the Park that required some minor bushwhacking to reach. As time had passed, Joe had decomposed, recycling his nutrients to the swamp,” the Coastal Ecology Lab said in its post.

“Our team recovered the tag along with the nuchals that were still attached to the tag (since the epoxy used to secure the tag does not break down).”

Lab authorities said Joe was an old alligator who had scar tissue over both eyes and his scutes were almost worn smooth. "Alligators can live to be approximately 80 years old though so it is possible he was close to that!" the post said.

At 11 feet, 5 inches long and weighing more than 400 pounds, Joe was the largest alligator tagged by the Coastal Ecology Lab in Okefenokee Swamp.

Officials hope to find the famous alligator’s lineage with the help of their genetic study.

“We are so grateful to have known him, for his contribution to science and the further understanding and preservation of his species. Since we have a tissue sample from Okefenokee Joe, his legacy and story will continue to grow as we identify his descendants through our research,” the post said.

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