'Unathletic' alligator with 'terrible arthritis' escapes Wisconsin zoo

'Unathletic' alligator with 'terrible arthritis' escapes Wisconsin zoo
© (Bkamprath/iStock)

The owner of a Wisconsin zoo is stupefied over how his "unathletic" and "overweight" alligator got loose, which was later safely returned.

Steve "Doc" Hopkins of Doc's Zoo at Doc's Harley-Davidson in Bonduel said he noticed the animal was missing Saturday morning. 

Of the four animals kept in the zoo's outdoor pen, only one, Rex, escaped.

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"We came out to feed the gators today and one of them was missing," Hopkins told WLUK. "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."

He added, "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 warned the public to be careful if they encounter Rex but noted that because of his failing health, he probably can't do much damage.

"The old gator is very unathletic and quite overweight," said Hopkins, according to WLUK. "He can barely open his jaws. He has terrible arthritis in his jaws. If he can open up his jaw an inch and a half, it's a lot. ... The most he could do is probably slap you with his tail and that is only if you get close and upset him."

Despite joking about the escape artist alligator's grand exit, Hopkins said he's saddened to have lost Rex, who had been with him for 35 years.

"I've never even had a problem with them thinking about getting out of there," he said. "We're just heartbroken that he's gone."

Rex the alligator was found and safely returned to the zoo a few hours after being discovered missing, according to a Facebook post by the business.
 
He was located in a swampy wooded area on the zoo's complex just before 5 p.m.
 
"What an adventure he must’ve had," the post read. "Thank you from the bottom of our hearts to all that helped in our search efforts."
 
Updated 7:25 p.m.