The owner of a Wisconsin zoo was baffled after an “unathletic” alligator with “terrible arthritis” managed to stage a three-day breakout.
Steve “Doc” Hopkins, the owner of Doc’s Zoo at Doc’s Harley Davidson in Bonduel, told WLUK over the weekend that he was heartbroken to discover the alligator, Rex, missing from his enclosure Saturday morning. He had no idea how the elderly gator managed to pull it off.
“The only thing I can think is maybe he was pumping iron all during COVID or something and planned his escape. I don’t know,” Hopkins told the station.
“There was no sign of the enclosure being breached in any way or the gator digging underneath or anything. It’s just very strange. This has never happened before.”
The zoo wrote in a Facebook post on Monday evening that Rex was home safe after Hopkins’ son, Steve, found him in a swampy area in the woods on the zoo complex.
“What an adventure he must’ve had,” the post said.
A lieutenant at the Shawano County Sheriff’s Department confirmed over the phone that the alligator had been reported missing and found.
In an earlier post, the zoo assured members of the public that Rex was typically very docile and not a danger to them. He has severe arthritis in his jaws, making it very difficult to open his mouth more than an inch.
Doc’s Zoo provides sanctuary and long-term care to unwanted pets and exotic animals, according to its website and Facebook post. Hopkins said he’s had Rex for 35 years.