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50-pound alligator found in raid on Hemet pot house

State narcotics agents call in the operator of a San Bernardino County animal sanctuary to remove the 4-foot-long reptile, which was living inside the home.

March 09, 2011|By Robert J. Lopez, Los Angeles Times

State narcotics agents raiding a Hemet pot house made a surprising find amid dozens of plants and seedlings: a 50-pound alligator.

The 4-foot-long gator lived inside the home, and the owner had set up a concrete tub with water so the reptile could get wet.

"He wasn't aggressive at all.... This guy was just very, very mellow," said Joel Almquist, who was summoned by authorities Monday night to take the alligator to his San Bernardino County animal sanctuary.

He said he had to "kind of push the plants to the side" to reach the gator and tape its mouth closed.

Almquist and his wife operate the nonprofit Forever Wild Exotic Animal Sanctuary in Phelan, which is home to lions, tigers and, now, 15 alligators.

Alligators are illegal in California, Almquist said, but the reptiles are nonetheless popular pets. He said he has recovered about 70 alligators in the last four years.

He said the animal in Hemet was an American alligator, which is found across the Southeast.

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