Savannah River Ecology Lab’s celebrity reptiles are proud and prolific parents once again.
After hatching 21 baby alligators on Labor Day, the mammoth male known as “Mr. Stumpy” and his mate, “Mrs. Stumpy,” have produced almost 500 offspring throughout a relationship spanning three decades.
The gators live in a fenced research pond at Savannah River Site and typically produce babies each year.
“They skip a year every once in a while, maybe two or three times during a 10-year period,” said herpetologist and ecology lab research scientist Cris Hagen.
A typical pod consists of 20 to 35 babies that are seven to eight inches long at birth. Since the young move around in their pond, they are difficult to count accurately, but observers believe this year’s group includes 21 hatchlings.
Stumpy, named for a missing front left foot, came to the lab in 1982 from Alabama. His mate was brought to the site two years later from Kiawah Island, S.C.
The gators have been featured in dozens of articles and documentaries over the years and have much in common. Both were relocated as “nuisance” reptiles and both have an affinity for delicacies such as roadkilled deer.
Stumpy, believed to be one of the largest and oldest gators at SRS, was taken to a truck weigh station in 2006, where he was measured at 12 feet, 4 inches in length with a 5-foot-3-inch belly girth. His official weight was 630 pounds.
Mrs. Stumpy has not been weighed but is about 10 feet long.
The eggs in this year’s nest were laid in late June. The babies will be used for the University of Georgia facility’s outreach and education programs and some may be given to zoos, nature centers and other qualified institutions, according to a press release from the lab.
Because alligators are very protective of their young, babies found in the wild should not be handled or picked up because the mother could be nearby.