TEXARKANA, Ark. — The legend of the lost lakes alligator is official.
At 13 feet, 3 inches and nearly 1,400 pounds, the bull alligator Mike Cottingham and his crew captured in September in the lost lakes area below the dam at Millwood Lake is the largest alligator ever harvested in Arkansas.
“It’s the largest individual alligator in the state and the largest to date to have been harvested in the sport hunt we’ve had since 2007,” said Kelly J. Irwin, herpetologist for the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission, which oversees the hunt to control the gator population.
The previous record was a 13-foot beast harvested in the lost lakes area in Hempstead County, Irwin said.
Cottingham’s gator was so big that he and his crew of family and friends used a truck to estimate the weight of the reptile. They first weighed the truck, then weighed the vehicle again after placing the gator in the bed. The difference was 1,380 pounds.
The bones of Cottingham’s alligator and the other gators harvested in the recent statewide hunt will be sent to Greg Erickson, assistant professor of anatomy and vertebrate paleobiology at Florida State University in Tallahassee.
“He will do bone analysis of the legs of the alligators we’re sending him. It’s like looking at tree rings to determine the ages of the alligators,” Irwin said. “Generally, an alligator about 12 feet is usually 25 years old.”
Cottingham’s alligator is estimated to be between 30 and 35 years old, Irwin said.
The hunt that landed the record alligator began about 10 p.m. Sept. 14.
Cottingham’s crew hunted for the gator in a boat 18 feet long and 8 feet wide, which rocked violently as the team wrestled with the behemoth, he said. Once the animal was under control, Cottingham dispatched it with a 12-gauge shotgun and No. 4 shot.