(SKY NEWS) — When a photo was shared on social media of a 13ft (4m) alligator, some people thought it was a hoax.
The photo showed the alligator lying on a dirt road, having been pulled from an irrigation ditch near Lake Blackshear in the US state of Georgia.
Kneeling behind it was an employee of Georgia’s Department of Natural Resources.
That employee, wildlife biologist Brent Howze, said he had measured the alligator’s chest girth at 1.5m and estimated its weight at 700lbs (317kg).
He told the Cordele Dispatch: “Apparently a lot of people think it’s fake, but I can assure you that it is not.
“I’m the one in the picture, and you can probably tell that I didn’t get too close to it.”
But he told Georgia’s WALB TV: “You’re perfectly safe.
“These animals exist, they’ve been here for centuries, they’ve been existing with people for centuries and they’re gonna continue to.”
Experts believe the alligator had been in the ditch for almost a week.
Heavy equipment was required to lift the creature on to the road, with Mr Howze telling the newspaper that it was “bigger than we originally anticipated”.
Melissa Cummings, a spokesperson for the department’s Wildlife Resources Division, said that the creature had old gunshot injuries and had to be euthanised “due its poor condition”.
She added: “Male alligators can grow up to 16 feet in length, although 14 footers are rare.”
She told First Coast News that the only way alligators were able to grow so large was “by avoiding humans”.