An alligator killed by hunters in South Carolina was found hiding a shocking — and agonizing — surprise when its mouth was pried open.
Wedged inside was a full 3-point deer antler permanently stuck in the soft tissue of its lower jaw.
The painful predicament came to light when Cordray’s, a meat processing shop, posted photos on Facebook showing the alligator was likely in extreme pain any time it tried closing its jaws.
“We determined it has been that way six months or less, and likely happened while the alligator was chewing,” Cordray’s owner Michael 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.”
The antler was removed Saturday, Sept. 30, when the 11-foot alligator was brought to Cordray’s for meat processing and a taxidermy mount. The location where it was caught has not been revealed.
Alligator hunting season in South Carolina spans from noon on the second Saturday of September to noon on the second Sunday of October. Cordray’s, about 20 miles west of Charleston, typically sees about 100 alligators per season for processing.
So far, the two biggest this season topped 13 feet, Cordray says.
Alligators are opportunistic feeders, known to eat live prey and dead animals found in the wilderness. Cordray speculates this was a case where the deer was live prey.
“I’m guessing the deer was drinking water and the alligator popped out and grabbed it,” he said. “It could have been a carcass the gator found, but most people (hunters) will keep six-point antlers, at least the head.”
Cordray’s posted its photos of the alligator Oct. 2, drawing more than 800 reactions and comments within 24 hours. Many suggested the unnamed hunters should have had the gator’s head mounted with the antler still stuck inside.
“I don’t even want to think about how that antler smelled,” Jonathon Boyd posted.
“And I complain when I have food stuck in my teeth. I can only imagine how that felt,” Stevens Harris wrote.
“Guess the deer got the last laugh,” David Loe said.
This is not the first time an alligator brought to Cordray’s has grabbed attention on social media.
In 2021, it processed a 12-foot alligator and found the undigested tags from five hunting dogs in its stomach, along with “one bullet jacket, one spark plug, loads of turtle shells, and several bobcat claws.” One of the dogs had vanished 24 years ago, the company wrote in a Facebook post.