A 7-foot alligator reportedly found in the American River has California officials puzzled.
A fisherman told a friend he spotted the alligator on some rocks in the river near Sailor Bar in Fair Oaks, a suburb of Sacramento, KXTV reported.
The friend captured the gator, securing its mouth with duct tape, and turned it over to the Wildlife Care Association, according to the station.
While the association cares for lost or injured wildlife, it’s not equipped to deal with an alligator as big as a person, KXTL reported. So it turned the reptile over to the California Department of Fish and Wildlife.
The agency took the alligator to a Bay Area facility better equipped to handle the large reptile, but it died hours later, department spokesman Patrick Foy told McClatchy News on April 12.
“It was in extremely poor health,” Foy said. The agency has opened an investigation to try to find out where the alligator came from, but officials suspect someone had been keeping it illegally as a pet.
Typically people acquire young alligators, then abandon them when they grow too large to easily handle, Foy said. The agency sees one or two such cases annually.
“It’s not common, but it’s not totally uncommon,” he said. An alligator released into the chilly American River in winter conditions wouldn’t have stood a chance, though.
“That’s almost a death sentence,” Foy said.
It’s a misdemeanor to own an alligator in California.