Two alligators with leathery orange skin are raising eyebrows in a community in South Carolina.
CNN affiliate WJCL reported that a man discovered the reptiles at a pond in Bluffton. Maybe an overzealous Clemson Tigers fan slathered them with the team colors? Or they ate Flamin' Hot Cheetos? Or they could be albino alligators?
None of that, says David Lucas of the South Carolina Department of Natural Resources. The color could simply be from rust in draining pipes.
"During the winter, the alligators like to dig in and find a place to hibernate," he said. "It is possible that some end up near drainage pipes that have rusty metal pieces inside, so basically they marinate in rust all winter, and this stains them."
Another alligator spotted in 2017
About the same time two years ago, another orange alligator emerged from a small lake in Charleston. The water temperatures start to warm up around this time of the year, which brings alligators out of hibernation.
"We don't see orange alligators every year, which is why they get so much attention," Lucas said.
Despite the fascination with the animals, experts warn people to keep a safe distance from the slithery reptiles -- orange or not.
"Alligators are large carnivorous predators that demand respect," says Dr. J. Whitfield Gibbons, director of outreach at Savannah River Ecology Laboratory
"Alligators are fascinating creatures and should by all means be enjoyed as part of the natural beauty of our region. But please remember that they are wild animals and should be respected as such.
That means maintaining a distance of 60 feet away from the animals, he says.