Florida man's photo of a raccoon riding an alligator might be fake
A surreal wildlife photo sent to multiple news outlets by a man in Florida has skeptics on high alert
This week in "animals riding other animals" news, a Florida raccoon is making headlines for using an alligator as its own personal surfboard — though whether or not this actually happened is still up for debate.
Orlando's WFTV was the first of several local news stations to report on the alleged interspecies exchange after receiving an email from a man named Richard Jones Sunday morning.
"Had a wonderful morning with the family in Ocala National forest and took an equally wonderful photo!" wrote Jones to several media outlets in Florida, attaching an image of what appeared to be a raccoon riding standing on an alligator's back in a river. "Definitely the photo of a lifetime."
According to the email, Jones had been walking along the Oaklawaha River watching gators with his family when a nearby raccoon became startled by their presence.
"It must have been asleep because it stumbled toward the water and hopped on top of the gator we were watching," he wrote. "I snapped a lucky picture right when the gator slipped into the water and before the raccoon jumped off and scurried away."
The raccoon riding an alligator is the most Florida thing since mortgage fraud. <a href="http://t.co/vnEv5rtlfT">pic.twitter.com/vnEv5rtlfT</a>—@brfreed
By Monday, the alligator-riding-raccoon picture had attracted more than 3.5 million views on Imgur, as well as media attention from around the world.
Some of that attention, however, was of the skeptical variety.
"Mr. Jones did not leave a phone number in his email so that we could confirm the authenticity of the image," wrote Florida Times-Union. "We did try to contact him via his email address and we also requested he phone us. At the time this story was posted, we still have not received a call or email from Mr. Jones."
The Ocula Star Banner, which initially declined to publish the photo at all, was similarly unable to reach Jones with follow-up questions.
"Until now, the Star-Banner has declined to publish the photo because we still have questions about its authenticity," the paper wrote Sunday night, listing out a summary of its concerns.
"The raccoon seems out of proportion — too big — compared with the alligator," reads part of the list. "Even zooming in, you can't tell whether the raccoon has feet... It almost looks like a taxidermy piece."
It's the alligator, however, that really has critics believing "this is just a taxidermy raccoon carefully positioned on top of a remote-controlled alligator" (as the Sentinel put it.)
"I'm from Florida, used to even spend a lot of time in the Ocala, and I can confirm this is the fakest s*** I've ever seen," wrote Redditor 2A_is_the_best_A. "The most obvious thing is that when a gator swims in the water only its eyes and nostrils are ever above the water. The back is usually completely submerged."
The unusual appearances of both animals, coupled with the fact that Jones hasn't spoken to any news outlets since his original email, has a growing number of people online calling the photo out as fake — but it's hard to say definitively that a raccoon didn't ride an alligator in Florida on Sunday.
What are your thoughts? Real or fake? Weigh in below.