TBT, the tabloid publication of the Poynter-owned Tampa Bay Times, may have been duped by a prankster. It ran a photo of a two-headed alligator on its front page Monday.
The image comes from Justin Arnold, who wrote on his Facebook page that he “was walking my dog yesterday and noticed a few people gathered by the Hillsborough river in Seminole Heights. When I went closer I was amazed to see this two headed alligator. According to Florida Fish and Game it has been reported by several people and they explained it as a failed separation of monozygotic twins and that it is common in reptiles. Please share this picture so others can keep their eyes out for it.”
Others in the region have picked up the story. WTSP posted a story about the gator, though it notes “the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission tells us they’ve received no reports of a two-headed alligator in the area.” First Coast News is also running what appears to be an earlier version of WTSP’s story. WWSB has posted a skeptical story, as did WTVT.
Justin Arnold has a collection of astonishing photos on his Tumblr, including a fur-bearing trout and other oddities. One posting of a mythical water creature was reportedly captured by Arnold two hundred years ago.
Arnold posted a second photo of his gator on Tumblr, this time complete with a trail for the beast’s tail.
Reached by phone, TBT Editor Neville Green said two readers submitted photos of the two-headed gator. “If we have been hoaxed, we certainly are guilty of it,” Green said. “On the other hand, we did not say it was a live alligator.”