Last October, Hurricane Matthew barrelled its way from the Caribbean up the East Coast of the United States, the first Category 5 tropical cyclone in the Atlantic Ocean since 2007. It claimed the lives of more than 600 people and caused billions of dollars of damage.

And, as it turns out, this fierce tempest also spelled the end for at least one American alligator.

A few days ago, US Fish and Wildlife Service personnel conducting post-Matthew cleanup operations in the Wassaw National Wildlife Refuge, which sits on a barrier island off the northern Georgia seacoast, stumbled upon an eerie scene: a storm-toppled pine pinning a weathered gator carcass.

gator crushed by three_2017_06_30.jpg
Image: Bert Wyatt/USFWS via Savannah Coastal Refuges Complex/Facebook

A "bit of bad luck", as the USFWS Savannah Coastal Refuges Complex pegged it in a Facebook post: the sort of alligator mortality that surely happens on occasion in remote backwaters when hurricanes make landfall in the American Southeast, even if people hardly ever see the results.

Ecologist Abby Lawson of Clemson University told Jason Bittel, who wrote about the squashed gator for National Geographic, that the reptile may have been especially vulnerable because Matthew struck in the fall. Alligators are becoming sluggish this time of year as their metabolic rates slow ahead of winter.

"The days are getting colder, and the nights are starting to get longer," Lawson told Bittel. "So the alligator was already in a tough position from the get-go."

Then again, the unfortunate gator may have had trouble scurrying out of harm's way regardless, given how extensive hurricane blowdown was on Wassaw Island. Here's how Joel Vos, Wassaw National Wildlife Refuge's environmental-education coordinator, described the aftermath to Bittel: "It was just trees on top of trees on top of trees."



Top header image: cuatrok77/Flickr