A photograph of a bizarre, toothy creature supposedly swimming at Lake Springfield is spreading like wildfire on Facebook.

It caused such a ruckus that the Missouri Department of Conservation weighed in on the image — and the agency concluded it’s a complete hoax.

“The people who put up these kinds of photos know they aren’t authentic and just want to play a prank on somebody,” said Francis Skalicky, MDC’s media spokesman in Springfield. “Once they get posted, they spread like a fire.”

Skalicky said someone sent him a copy of the photo to his personal Facebook page, and Skalicky immediately suspected it was a hoax.

The Missouri Department of Conservation squelched rumors that this was a creature swimming in Lake Springfield.

“It’s close cropped so there’s nothing that gives you a sense of how big it is, there’s no landscape to give you a sense of place. Those kinds of images have ‘hoax’ written all over them.”

However, since someone asked him to identify the creature, Skalicky sent the image to several MDC wildlife experts. He also wanted to be able to head off the inevitable media calls that would likely follow once reporters saw the image identified online as being from Springfield.

A bit more sleuthing revealed the image likely originated with a cryptozoological website which claimed the animal was photographed in the country of Brunei. Cryptozoology is a pseudoscience that focuses on mythical creatures like Bigfoot or moth men.

There’s also a YouTube link that purports to show a video of the creature swimming, with tall palm trees in the background. 

In a Facebook post, Skalicky noted the swimming creature isn’t the first one he’s had to debunk.

“This is the latest example in what appears to be a growing trend — finding weird wildlife photos and trying to pass it off as Missouri wildlife,” he wrote. “Last night, when I was talking to my wife about this, I was able to cite three examples off the top of my head — a few years ago, a newspaper called me about a sequential series of photos that showed a mountain lion taking down a deer. The person said the photos were taken “just north of Springfield.” Well, I e-mailed these photographs to several biologists and found out this same sequence of photographs had shown up on the websites of the Fish and Game agencies of several states, and were probably taken in Texas.