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'Unathletic' gator with arthritis captured after escaping Wisconsin zoo

11 months 4 weeks 2 days ago Wednesday, May 26 2021 May 26, 2021 May 26, 2021 4:22 PM May 26, 2021 in News
Source: WLUK

BONDUEL, Wisc. - An alligator that managed to slip away from a zoo was safely captured, likely thanks in part to the animal's age and its "terrible arthritis," according to the zoo's owner. 

Steve "Doc" Hopkinsthe owner of Doc's Zoo in Bonduel, Wisconsintold WLUK that he first noticed the gator was missing Saturday morning. He said he wasn't sure how the animal, named Rex, managed to escape.

“The only thing I can think is maybe he was pumping iron all during COVID or something and planned his escape. I don’t know,” Hopkins said.

The zoo keeper said staff keeps the gators in a heated, indoor pond during the winter, and the animals had just been moved outside last week.

“We came out to feed the gators today and one of them was missing,” Hopkins explained. “There was no sign of the enclosure being breached in any way or the gator digging underneath or anything. It's just very strange. This has never happened before.”

Hopkins said he's had the gator for 35 years. When Hopkins spoke to WLUK earlier this week, he said people should mind their distance but added that the animal isn't capable of doing much harm.

“The old gator is very unathletic and quite overweight,” he said. “He can barely open his jaws. He has terrible arthritis in his jaws. If he can open up his jaw an inch and a half, it's a lot....The most he could do is probably slap you with his tail and that is only if you get close and upset him.”

Monday evening, the zoo announced Rex had been located and safely taken back home. 

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