A Louisiana wildlife agency is investigating the deaths of five alligators after a kayaker spotted them floating near the water’s edge of Bayou St. John over the weekend.
Johanna Ecke discovered the gators while out on the water Sunday, calling the sight “really concerning.”
“I ended up coming upon these five alligators, you know, belly up,” Ecke told WDSU News. “It was a pretty shocking sight because we’ve lived here for almost 20 years, I’ve never seen alligators in a big group like that, let alone all dead.”
The incident was later reported to the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries, which launched an investigation.
A spokesman for the department said they don’t have a suspect or any leads just yet, and that rapid decomposition of the corpses made the gators hard to inspect. However, officials said illegal dumping is a possibility.
Bayou St. John “is pretty much all recreational, so it’d be very rare for someone to harvest gators from that area and then leave them there,” Adam Einck, public information director for Louisiana’s DWF, told McClatchy News. “So we suspect that someone killed these alligators in a different body of water and then dumped them there.”
American alligators are found across the southern U.S. stretching from North Carolina to the Rio Grande in Texas, according to the Smithsonian National Zoo. The reptiles are often seen floating in “congregations” in freshwater rivers, swamps, marshes and lakes.
Alligators were also once on the verge of extinction but are no longer listed as endangered, according to the zoo.
Anyone with information on the alligators found in Bayou St. John is asked to call Louisiana’s Operation Game Thief hotline at 1800-442-2511.