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Gator glut continues on Long Island; 5th reptile found

October 08, 2012|By Tina Susman
  • This alligator was found by New York police in a Brooklyn apartment last month. It is similar to five more discovered recently on Long Island, apparently abandoned by their owners after they became too large to keep at home.
This alligator was found by New York police in a Brooklyn apartment last… (New York Police Department )

NEW YORK -- The legendary alligators who once lurked in New York City’s sewer system have moved to the suburbs. Five alligators have been found wandering Long Island communities in recent days, and unlike their mythical city-slicker brethren, nobody doubts their existence.

The latest sighting occurred Sunday in the town of Shirley, sitting in a plastic container outside an Applebee’s restaurant. The words “my gator” were written on top of the container.

It was the fifth one found since Sept. 28 on Long Island, where others have turned up on residential lawns and golf courses, and in parking lots. All have been picked up by animal control officers and placed in wildlife sanctuaries, zoos or aquariums, and the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals has offered a $2,000 reward for information leading to the person responsible for abandoning the latest reptile.

It is illegal to keep alligators and other wild animals as pets in New York state, and demands have grown nationwide for all states to pass such laws in the wake of an incident in Ohio last October that left dozens of tigers, lions and other wild animals kept in a private zoo dead. The animals were shot to death by sheriff's deputies after their owner set them free and then killed himself.

Although the alligator found on Long Island on Sunday was only 3 to 4 feet long, the chief of the Suffolk County SPCA, Roy Gross, said that is big enough to be dangerous, and he noted that it had been left outside a restaurant that caters to families with children.

“This is really putting people in danger,” he told Newsday. Gross blamed people who buy baby alligators “because they think it’s cool,” but then don’t know what to do with them when they become too big or too dangerous to keep at home. At that point, he told Newsday, they “decide to dump them.”

Alligators can grow to 14 feet long, longer than many New York City apartments are wide. Still, they do turn up in the metro area, some 50 miles west of the latest Long Island glut. On Sept. 7, police said animal control officers recovered two alligators from a Brooklyn apartment, where they had been kept as pets along with five pythons, a boa constrictor, two bearded dragons, a scorpion and a gecko.

For those who prefer their pets warm and fuzzy, there was also a tarantula living in the apartment.

Earlier this month, also in Brooklyn, police discovered another alligator in a couple's apartment. Two years ago, police retrieved a 2-foot-long alligator spotted beneath a car in the New York borough of Queens. They speculated the alligator, which was given a new more suitable home, had been abandoned after outgrowing someone else's.

Those beasts paled in comparison to Ming the tiger, who was discovered living in a Manhattan apartment in 2003. Ming's owner, Antoine Yates, unwittingly alerted police to the tiger's existence when he showed up at a hospital with deep bite marks on his leg. Hospital officials didn't believe the story that a dog had caused the bite.

When police went to check Yates' apartment, they heard growling through the door.

Ming eventually was shot with a tranquilizer gun and moved to a wildlife sanctuary. After police entered the apartment, they also found ... an alligator.

tina.susman@latimes.com

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