Passerbys have recently spotted “Trumpagator,” the orange alligator, in South Carolina, and it certainly has a Cheeto-flavored hue to it.
Social media users gave the gator its nickname after repeatedly spotting it at the retention ponds around the Tanner Plantation in Hanahan, South Carolina.
Alligators are of course not born this color, according to Seeker. Animal experts have a couple of theories on why this four-to-five-foot-long alligator is bright orange. Hint: It’s not a misapplication of bronzer.
“For three to four months out of every year, alligators go into a hibernation-like state called brumation. During this time they tend to do a lot of digging into mud, covering themselves and being more dormant,” Peter Critchlow, the park manager at the Critchlow Alligator Sanctuary in Michigan, told Seeker.
“The orange color,” he added, “could be due to iron oxide from clay or mud. Another way to put it is that the alligator might have gotten into rusty mud.”
Critchlow said that the alligator probably crawled into a rusty drainage pipe and settled in. Seeker reports that alligators are attracted to these culverts (just as cats enjoy sleeping in boxes) and if made from metal, the inside of the pipe easily rusts.
“In undeveloped areas, alligators will naturally go into caves, so culverts must seem like a nice, safe cave to them,” Critchlow said.
Meanwhile, Herpetologist Josh Zalabak told WBTW in South Carolina that it could be “Algae — maybe some pollutant in the water, but it’s hard to say unless the water is tested.”
Lastly, another theory suggests that a prankster is behind Trumpagator’s coloring. As one NBC reporter so succinctly stated (below), “It’s awfully suspicious, as the Anahan school colors are orange and blue.”
No matter the cause of the coloring, there’s good news for anyone concerned about the alligator’s health: Trumpagator will shed its skin within a couple of weeks to months. This molting means that Trumpagator will go back to being gray and green soon enough.