A chance wildlife sighting turned into a gruesome discovery for one Sarasota woman on Monday.
Kimberly Kukich was driving to her parents’ home when she spotted what appeared to be a large alligator on the side of the road.
When she drew closer, it became apparent that the reptile’s head was missing.
“Up close it looks like a chainsaw did it,” Kukich said in a social media post later that day. “I do believe this was a trophy kill for the head.”
She also posted a photo of the decapitated alligator, which was lying off of Lorraine Road near State Road 72 in Sarasota County.
The sighting was reported to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, and the agency’s law enforcement division began investigating.
After an examination of the alligator’s remains, FWC officers concluded that the animal was likely hit by a vehicle and the head was removed later, according to ABC 7 Sarasota.
The perpetrator could face criminal charges.
Intentionally injuring or killing an alligator is a third-degree felony under Florida law, and it is also illegal to possess alligator parts without the necessary permits, according to FWC.
Only properly licensed hunters can kill alligators and harvest their body parts, and they must use state-approved methods to do so.
“In this case, it appears that the alligator was either hit by a vehicle or killed illegally. Therefore, the removal of the head and possession of it would not be legal,” FWC spokesman Brian Norris told WFLA.
Members of the public with information about the case (or any wildlife violations) can call the FWC Wildlife Alert Hotline at 1-888-404-3922 to submit an anonymous tip and become eligible for a possible reward.