Even if alligators aren't native to your state, there's a chance you could find one of these reptiles in your backyard
If you live in a landlocked state and think your only chance of seeing an alligator is at a zoo, think again.
Over the past year, strange alligator sightings have occurred all over the United States.
According to the Smithsonian’s National Zoo and Conservation Biology Institute, “the American alligator is found in the United States from North Carolina to the Rio Grande in Texas. Alligators are usually found in freshwater, slow-moving rivers. They also live in swamps, marshes and lakes.”
But there’s been gator sightings in Chicago, New York and Connecticut just in July of this year. So how are these southern reptiles popping up in places like Lake Michigan and Missouri? The interest in exotic pet ownership is likely responsible. The laws vary state to state on whether it is legal to own an alligator as a pet, and what permits are required to do so, but even in states where alligators are illegal to own, like Illinois, gators have popped up and caused havoc.
Dr. Ellen Boyd, associate veterinarian at Animal House of Chicago, told the Chicago Tribune that a 5-foot-long alligator recently found in Chicago’s Humboldt Park was likely purchased as a pet when it was small, and was later abandoned in the wild when the animal became too much work and too large to care for.
“The most common story is that people think it’s pretty cool to get an alligator when they’re small, and then as they grow it becomes very clear at some point that they can’t handle having this pet,” Boyd told the outlet. “Because either they’re embarrassed or they don’t know where to go, they just release them into the wild.”
This is unfair to the pet alligator, who is often left alone in an inhospitable environment with no idea on how to cope on its own in the wild. If you are thinking of obtaining a pet alligator for yourself, first check that it is legal to own a pet gator in your state, and then research the food, supplies and care pet alligators need to thrive, so you know if you are up to the task.
Regardless of whether you live in an area where gators are native or not, you should never approach any alligator you see. If you believe alligator is in danger and/or a danger to others, you should contact a wildlife rescue professional and Animal Control for assistances.
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Read on to learn about all the bizarre gator sightings that have occurred over the past year.
July 2019 in Staten Island, New York: Shortly after a gator appeared swimming in a pool in Long Island, New York, another alligator appeared in the NYC Area. This reptile was found in the woods of Staten Island. The 3-foot-long animal was safely removed from the woods and taken to an animal care center. Authorities are unsure how the gator go into the woods, but believe the reptile could be a former pet.
July 2019 in Bayport, New York: A Long Island man discovered a baby alligator paddling around in his backyard pool during a heatwave. He is unsure how the animal ended up in New York, but did his part to care for the out of place critter. After removing the alligator from his pool and placing it in a tank, he called his local SPCA. The SPCA was able to arrange a transfer for the baby gator. The reptile is now living at a nature preserve in the South.
July 2019 in East Lyme, Connecticut: Officials responded to a reported alligator sighting in East Lyme’s Powers Lake. Connecticut’s Department of Energy and Environmental Protection was unable to confirm the sighting, but asked East Lyme residents to keep an eye out and come forward with any additional information about gator sightings around Powers Lake.
July 2019 in Chicago, Illinois: Dubbed Chance the Snapper by locals, a 5-ft. gator caused a stir in Chicago when it was spotted in a lagoon inside the city’s Humboldt Park. It took nearly a week to remove the reptile from the park, which was partially shut down during the search for the animal. The alligator was safely removed with help from a Florida alligator expert Chicago brought in to advise on the odd situation. A spokesperson for the city’s Animal Care and Control told CNN that the gator was likely taken to the Chicago lagoon and left there by someone who owned the reptile as a pet, even though pet alligators are illegal in Illinois.
May 2019 in Clearwater, Florida: Seeing an alligator around the waters of Clearwater, Florida, isn’t unusual, but finding one of the reptiles in your kitchen is. An alligator shocked a Clearwater resident when the animal broke into their home by crashing through a window. The gator proceeded to waddle into the kitchen and destroy four bottles of “good wine” before being safely removed from the home by professionals.
November 2018 in Kansas City, Missouri: Police officers discovered a 7-ft. gator living in a Kansas City home when they went to evict a man from the property. The man said he got the gator as a pet when the reptile was little and that he had spent the past four years feeding the animal chicken nuggets and steak. It is illegal to own a pet alligator in Kansas City, so the animal was safely removed from the home and placed in a wildlife rescue that is home to several other former pet gators.
October 2018 in Waukegan, Illinois: A kayaker enjoying Lake Michigan, discovered a real 4-ft. gator with its mouth taped shut when they paddled over to investigate what they thought was a gator-shaped pool float. Animal Control officers helped remove the animal from the lake and brought it to a wildlife rescue center. Rob Carmichael, the center’s curator, told the Lake County News Sun that the thin, weak reptile had less than a few weeks left, especially with water temperatures in the lake dropping every day.