Is this photo of a raccoon riding an alligator real?

Yesterday a photo of a raccoon riding an alligator in Florida’s Ocala National Forest went viral after a man calling himself Rich Jones of Palatka mailed it out to numerous media sites.

Most people seemed to take the photo at face value, probably because A) So cute and B) Florida. It was picked up by many major news organizations.

But just as quickly, others began raising questions about its authenticity; most critically, the Ocala Star Banner itself, which has so far refused to print the photo.

“We still have questions,” its editors wrote in a post yesterday.

Here were their main ones:

  • Why does the raccoon, which looks enormous, seem out of proportion with the alligator?
  • Why can’t the ‘coon’s feet can’t be seen?
  • Why is its tail so bushy? Usually they have long fluffy ones.
  • Why does its posture look so stiff? “It almost looks like a taxidermy piece,” they write.
  • Why does the gator’s eye look so unusual, and its body so “rubber-like”

Reddit has also been all over it, with more than 1,700 comments and counting. “The gator eyes are a dead giveaway, and I’ve never seen a gator ride that high in the water,” user Sheltopusik wrote.

The Orlando Sentinel’s Adrienne Cutway thought the exact same thing, and noted this other important detail about its provenance:

The photo has been shared thousands of times but the original “photographer” hasn’t given a single interview, other than the brief email he sent to multiple outlets, and I do mean multiple — sort of like he was begging for this thing to go viral.

We personally would also add that it seems unusual there is no footage accompanying such a perfectly shot moment.

The Star Banner said the photographer, Rich Jones, had still not responded to their requests for comment.

We’ll let you know if he does.