UGA researchers go deep into Georgia swamp to find massive gator after losing GPS signal

JEFFERSON COUNTY, Ga. — His name was Doc. Coming in at about 400 pounds, the massive 11-foot gator was the dominant male that lived in Mud Lake in the Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge.

The last time researchers came across Doc was in June 2022 and they realized something was wrong.

“He was very skinny. We suspected Doc was an older alligator based on the sheer number of injuries he had, but when we saw how much weight he had lost in just over a year we realized he was even older than we initially thought,” the University of Georgia’s Ecology Lab said in a Facebook post this week.

The team of researchers first captured Doc in April 2021 and tagged him as part of their satellite tag study.

Last year, Channel 2′s Berndt Petersen went with UGA researchers as they tagged gators across Georgia and into South Carolina.

The goal of the team was to figure out what the future holds for reptiles and other species that call our planet home and change potential negative outcomes before it’s too late.


As for Doc, researchers said he eventually moved into a secluded part of the refuge and the team stopped receiving GPS points from him in August.

“Because of how far out into the swamp he had moved, we were unable to get to him to figure out exactly what had happened to him. It was only recently … that we were able to investigate his last known location,” the post said.

Eventually, they did find what remained of Doc some “14.5 miles out into the swamp.”

But his remains will now help in the study of the creatures for years to come.

“We found not only his satellite tag but roughly 60% of his skeleton, including his huge skull,” the UGA Coastal Ecology Lab said. “We are still missing nearly 3 feet of his spine as well as many of the small intricate bones in the feet.

Researchers said it’s hard to determine an alligator’s exact age, but they typically live between 60-70 years, some even longer.

“We are saddened by Doc’s passing but are thankful for the data he provided and educational value his skeleton will provide,” the ecology lab said.


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