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Second Gator Gives Wranglers Slip

Reptile is spotted near a Harbor City lake that is home to an alligator first seen last month.

September 08, 2005|Nancy Wride | Times Staff Writer

In the summer drama that is Find the Gator, Wednesday's installment opened with a reptile basking in a Harbor City drainage ditch and closed with a cliffhanger. Again.

"He stuck his snout and his eyes out, then he sunk back under the water," said Nick Reagan, 16, who will have some kind of back-to-school tale for today.

It was his family who first spotted the brownish alligator -- estimated to be 3 to 3 1/2 feet long -- in a flood control channel behind their Harbor City Estates mobile home park late Tuesday, and called the authorities. It is the second alligator discovered in this port city in three weeks.

But as Wednesday wore on along the banks of the concrete ditch, this second suburban gator proved just as difficult to capture as the first, Reggie, who has set up housekeeping in nearby Machado Lake and is estimated to be 8 to 10 feet long.

"Oh! There he is," said Lt. Michelle Roche of Los Angeles County Animal Services, her brown uniform pants covered by thigh-high vinyl wader boots. It was 2:45 p.m., and she thought the rustling of plants and a loud splash from the ditch had signaled the alligator's return.

"Wait," said Chris Cauble, a veterinarian who had the foresight to wear a nametag for this outing along the flood channel. "That could just be a fish."

And so the search plodded as a crowd collected ditch-side in the blazing sun: mobile home park residents; kids offering water bottles to sunburned reporters and television crews; half a dozen firefighters with a pair of fire engines; half a dozen Los Angeles Police Department officers, animal control and park rangers; and even City Councilwoman Janice Hahn.

All took turns staring into the mucky water as the hours passed and the alligator failed to resurface for another close-up.

Earlier, the smaller of the wayward alligators known to be trolling the man-made waterways had been in plain view.

"We saw him this morning," said Alison Crossley, a resident of the mobile home park.

She and her two children heard from neighbors about the roaming gator and raced down to see it.

"He was fine for hours," Crossley said, "until everybody tried to catch him."

Yes, it's a cement-lined ditch. Yes, it's surrounded by refineries. And yes, it's an unlikely haven for an alligator.

But the Southern California real estate market is tight.

Roche said LAPD officers were called by the park management midmorning Wednesday when it looked as if civilians might venture into the steep-sided, U-shaped ditch to capture the reptile. Roche said her department, in turn, was summoned by the LAPD.

For several hours there was no absence of official-looking workers in wader boots and hard hats, using fishing lines and nets to try to outfox the reptile.

All were careful not to harm the animal, which appeared so unfazed by cameras and people that officials assumed it was a pet that had been dumped or escaped.

The former was the case with the better-known Reggie.

His owner has been arrested for dumping him, and his three other alligators were seized and turned over to the L.A. Zoo.

A spectacle unfolded for days after the much larger Reggie was seen cruising Lake Machado -- just blocks away from the sighting of "Little Reggie," as residents were calling the smaller gator Wednesday.

Reggie also remains at large.

Most visitors had decamped the Southland's latest alligator caper by 3 p.m., save for a few animal-control workers and TV vans ready for their live afternoon reports of ... still nothing going on.

"We'll spot him again," said Greg Reagan, who spotted the smaller alligator Tuesday about 4 p.m. on his daily tour to feed turtles and ducks that roam the channel behind his mobile home park. "He likes this little area."

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