An alligator at a Florida zoo was “behaving strangely” and exhibiting abnormal symptoms — but experts at the University of Florida College of Veterinary Medicine found a surprisingly simple reason why. 

Brooke, a 376-pound gator from St. Augustine Alligator Farm Zoological Park, was exhibiting a series of symptoms, including intermittent head-rolling in his lagoon, according to a statement by the University of Florida College of Veterinary Medicine. The alligator was brought to the hospital on July 25 for a “thorough workup to evaluate the possible cause of unusual behavior.” 

The experts there used all the diagnostic tools at their disposal, including a blood draw, lung X-rays, and CT scans of Brooke’s head. The hospital noted that clinicians had to use both X-rays and CT scans because “Brooke was too large to perform a complete CT scan of his body.” 

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Dr. Bridget Walker, a UF zoological medicine resident, performs a blood draw on Brooke. This position minimizes risk to humans and is not painful to alligators, according to the zoo.

University of Florida College of Veterinary Medicine


With all that information at their fingertips, the team soon made a diagnosis: Brooke had an ear infection. 

Ear infections are caused by air in sensitive parts of the ear, and can be caused by viruses or bacteria, according to the Mayo Clinic. The college did not say what caused Brooke’s infection.

The alligator was sent back to the zoo later in the day on July 25. On July 28, the zoo posted about Brooke’s condition on Facebook and answered a few common questions, like where an alligator’s ears are. (Turns out, alligator ears are directly behind their eyes. They can close their ears tightly to prevent water getting in.) 

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Brooke received a CT scan as part of his diagnosis. 

University of Florida College of Veterinary Medicine


The zoo also said that Brooke would receive medicine “without any stress or worry.” 

“We train with our animals frequently, and Brooke has years of experience coming to his name, accepting food (sometimes with medicine), and holding still,” the zoo wrote.