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Herps In The News Local or national articles where reptiles or amphibians have made it into the news media. Please cite sources.

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Old 04-01-2003, 09:02 AM   #1
Clay Davenport
Springfield man finds alligator near home

Dickerson Park Zoo official suspects 2-foot reptile was brought to the area by someone.
It wasn't worthy of a "Crocodile Hunter" video, but there was some alligator wrangling in a west Springfield neighborhood Wednesday.

That's when John Spurgeon found a two-foot baby alligator just outside the crawl space of his home on West Belmont Street.

"I was taking water to my dog and I just saw it there," said Spurgeon, 39. "My wife walked right by it."

It took him about a minute or so to corral the young reptile in a tub and put a lid over it. After that, he called the Dickerson Park Zoo.

Officials there were somewhat skeptical. After all, alligators are not found this far north. Still, reptile keeper Dave Illig was dispatched to take a look.

While waiting, Spurgeon got another chance to show off his wrangling skills. The gator escaped his makeshift enclosure, sending gawking neighbors and visitors backpedaling. Spurgeon quickly recaptured it shortly before Illig showed up.

"When he described it to me, I was thinking it was a tegue (a South American lizard) or a monitor lizard," said Illig, dismissing the possibility the reptile was wild. "Somebody bought this somewhere. He's one that got away."

That was good news to Spurgeon, who still needed to go underneath his home to fix a broken drain pipe.

"It would have been kinda bad if there was a big one under there when I went in to fix it," he joked.

Using his hat as a decoy, Illig was able to grab the gator. As the now-helpless reptile squeaked repeatedly in his hands, Illig give those gathered an up-close look. Neighbor Jeffrey Shivers, 5, even got a chance to touch its tail and belly.

Judging from its dirty appearance, the alligator had been in the crawl space for at least a few days.

But, "I'd be real surprised if he spent the winter in there," Illig explained. "They can take some cold, but not like the winter we had."

And what will become of it now?

"We'll clean him up and feed him, see if anybody claims him," Illig said. "If not, we'll probably just keep him."

Jeffrey hoped the excitement was the start of an exotic-animal adventure.

"Tomorrow, I might go see a shark," he said.

The Springfield News-Leader

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