WWII-era alligator known as ‘Okefenokee Joe’ dies in South Georgia swamp

Credit: Georgia’s Coastal Ecology Lab / social media photo via Facebook

Credit: Georgia’s Coastal Ecology Lab / social media photo via Facebook

An 11-and-a-half-foot alligator known as “Okefenokee Joe,” who was believed to have crawled and preyed the wetlands of South Georgia since World War II, has died.

Researchers from Georgia’s Coastal Ecology Lab had been tracking the animal’s movements by satellite since 2020 and say he died from old age, according to a statement on Facebook, first reported by CNN.

The last movement by the 400-pound behemoth was detected in the Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge on July 20, leading zoologists to believe that “the tag had simply fallen off as it had been several weeks since we had received any GPS points from him,” the lab said.

Weeks later, however, wildlife officials confirmed Oke Joe’s death after locating the tag still attached to the beast in the 430,000-acre swamp along the Georgia-Florida border.

“We are so grateful to have known him, for his contribution to science and the further understanding and preservation of his species,” the statement said.

Joe was likely the “dominant male” in the swamp for many decades, CNN reported, citing a statement from the lab last year. “However, we suspect that his old age and poor vision hinder his ability to compete with younger alligators,” the statement said.

The animal’s exact age was uncertain, but if born at the end of WWII, Joe would have been at least 76 years.

“Alligators can live to be approximately 80 years old though so it is possible he was close to that!” the lab said in the Facebook statement, adding that the animal “was a very old alligator as he had scar tissue over both eyes and his scutes were worn almost smooth.”