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Print

Gators in northern waters probably pets

August 24, 2010 at 11:26 PM

CHICAGO (AP) — Two gators in the Chicago River. One strolling down a Massachusetts street. Another in bustling New York City. And that’s just in the past few weeks.

From North Dakota to Indiana, alligators are showing up far from their traditional southern habitats — including a 3-footer captured Tuesday in the Chicago River.

But experts say it’s not the latest sign of global warming. Instead the creatures almost certainly were pets that escaped or were dumped by their owners.

“People buy them as pets and then they get too big and at some point they decide they just can’t deal with it,” said Kent Vliet, an alligator expert from the University of Florida who tracks media reports about the reptiles.

In the past three years, he said, there have been at least 100 instances of alligators showing up in more than 15 states where they’re not native. North Carolina is the farthest north that alligators are found naturally, Vliet said.

A 3-foot-long, collar-wearing alligator was found Sunday strolling down a street in Brockton, Mass. On Monday, a 2-foot-long gator was spotted under a car in New York City. In fact, since spring, gators also have been found in Fargo, N.D., eastern Missouri, upstate New York, rural Indiana, Ohio and a Detroit suburb.

After being spotted by boaters on Sunday, Chicago’s rogue gator drew scores of gawkers to the banks of the river. It peered from the water at the people staring back through binoculars, and swam away when a duck got too close.

“It’s not scary,” 8-year-old Caleb Berry said Monday. “It was a baby and it wasn’t eating anything.”

The alligator eluded capture and apparently ignored traps baited with raw chicken until Tuesday, when a volunteer from the Chicago Herpetological Society was able to snare it with a net. Three weeks ago, the volunteer captured a 2 1/2-foot gator in the same area.

Vliet said such small alligators don’t pose much of a threat to humans — preferring to dine on fish, snails, crayfish, frogs and small snakes — though they probably would bite if handled.

“It’s not like it’s going to hunt you down,” he said.

The greater risk is to the reptiles, which probably wouldn’t survive long in northern climates, experts said.

“The animal is going to die a slow death,” said Franklin Percival, a wildlife biologist for the U.S. Geological Survey in Florida who says alligators most often are abandoned when they reach 3 feet or so and “people wonder why they made the early decision” to buy them.

“Ecologically, it’s not responsible and maybe ethically it is not a good idea, either,” Percival said.

Alligators can be kept as pets in some states as long as the owner gets the proper permits, though some municipalities — like New York City — ban them outright. Illinois stopped issuing such permits three years ago because of problems with illegal ownership and people releasing unwanted pets, said Joe Kath, endangered species manager for the state Department of Natural Resources.

Cherie Travis, executive director of Chicago Animal Care and Control, said owning an alligator is a bad idea.

“No one in Illinois needs to own an alligator. Period,” Travis said.

Your CommentsComments :: Terms :: .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)

I think they would be just fine in power plant lakes like Newton/Baldwin.

Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) on 08/25 at 07:58 AM

Wouldn’t it be nice if they ate Asian Carp!!

Posted by Metallicat85 on 08/26 at 02:35 PM

when I was a LITTLE kid, I bought a baby gator from Mongomery Wards for $2.50- it got 3 feet long and I lost interest, especailly in feeding it, so I threw it over an 8 foot fence into a hot water lagoon for one of the big factories in my home town, and forgot about it- Till years later,when an EIGHT FOOT gator was spotted in that got water ditch and made the paper! I had to laugh!

Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) on 08/27 at 09:19 PM

In October 1966, two Decatur fishermen captured a small alligator that measured a little over a foot long. The two men were on Lake Decatur when they discovered the baby alligator in the company of its much larger mother. They estimated the parent creature to be around six feet long. At the sight of the larger alligator, they abandoned their fishing spot, taking the smaller animal with them. walmsley…....... Dateline Decatur, IL. 1966…..“The local newspaper featured a story on the two fishermen that contained a photograph of one of the men, Richard Stubblefield, holding the alligator.
And Decatur’s sewer system holds mysteries of its own…
It seems that in June 1967, an alligator was pulled from a drainpipe at 895 West Eldorado Street. The animal was less than a foot long, but one has to wonder how large its mother must have been?

Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) on 08/30 at 03:14 PM

I thought all those alligators in chicago were in Washington DC now, eating up Democracy.

Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) on 08/30 at 06:25 PM

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