Two alligators, each weighing more than 720 pounds, were caught in Mississippi this past weekend, setting a new state record for heaviest male alligator. Both animals measured more than 13 feet in length; it took hours to get the trophies into the hunters' boats.
The huge reptiles were brought down on the same day, setting a state record that stood for less than two hours before it was broken again.
"In the world of alligator hunting, anything can happen. But not even Nostradamus could have predicted how this opening weekend would unfold." according to a report in The Clarion-Ledger.
It took more than an hour for Beth Trammell of Madison, Miss., and five others to catch their 723.5-pound gator in Issaquena County, which sits along the Mississippi River in the central portion of the state.
"I yelled 'Oh my gosh we caught the Loch Ness Monster!' " Trammell tells ABC News. "It was totally unbelievable."
A few miles south, a three-person team that includes Dustin Bockman of Yazoo City fought a 727-pound gator for two hours, The Clarion-Ledger reports.
And after they killed the animal, things didn't get easier — they needed to bring in their catch to be weighed and verified. Finally, they settled on taking the gator to a sandbar to wait for help.
"Tired, hungry, we'd been pulling on a 700-pound gator for four hours, and we really needed a nap at that point," Bockman tells the newspaper.
For both hunting parties, it took far longer to bring the animals in than to catch them. And in each case, other hunters pitched in to get the Brobdingnagian gators into their boats. For Trammell's group, a boat lift was required to hoist the gator for photographs.
Earlier this year, a Texas teenager brought in "a record 800-pound alligator during his first public gator hunt with his dad," as KHOU News reported. At 14 feet in length, the animal was estimated to be between 30 and 50 years old.
As wildlife managers in Texas noted, alligators can grow old — and big — in protected areas where hunting licenses are granted very conservatively. In most states that allow alligator hunts, the season is very short, and hunters are required to take classes before they use their license. The state of Mississippi began issuing alligator hunting licenses in 2005.
Like tortoises, crocodiles, and other animals, alligators are believed to benefit from "negligible senescence," a scientific term that essentially means an animal doesn't show symptoms of aging. It also often means that the animals will continue growing as long as they're alive. This facet of the story was thrust upon us by a search-engine fluke that brought us the question "Are crocodiles immortal?"
Even the big gators seen in the United States this year might seem like little lizards next to the largest saltwater crocodiles on record. In 2011, for instance, "an allegedly 21-foot-long" crocodile was caught in the Philippines. It reportedly weighed 2,369 pounds.