An unlikely guest—an 18-inch-long American alligator—was found at a Southampton Village home on Sunday. It is the ninth alligator that has been found in Suffolk County in the last several weeks, according to Suffolk County Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Chief Executive Director Roy Gross. He said he suspects most were abandoned or released by people who kept them as pets—but noted that the number seemed exceptionally high.
“I never remember having that many released in my 29 years with the SPCA,” he said. “It’s very odd.”
The young male reptile, approximately 12 to 18 months old, was discovered in a window well by a homeowner on Hampton Street, who put a blanket over the alligator to keep it warm and called the SPCA, he said. Staff members from the Save the Animals Rescue Foundation picked up and transported the spry alligator to the organization’s location in Middle Island. It appeared to be healthy. American alligators typically grow to 10 to 15 feet long and can weigh as much as 1,000 pounds.
“Now it’s sitting under a nice sun lamp, which I’d like to do myself,” Mr. Gross said. “It’s being taken care of. The STAR Foundation will take it to a zoo or reptile habitat. They’ll get it to the right facility—a legitimately warm environment.”
Mr. Gross said the alligator will most likely be transported south to Florida, where reptiles like the alligator are prevalent.
The SPCA is investigating how the little guy ended up in someone’s window well in Southampton Village and looking for the culprit. “I certainly didn’t expect this yesterday,” he said on Monday. Had the alligator not been found in time, the cold-blooded reptile could have died. “It can’t sustain the cold for very long.”
He said he suspects the alligator was released the same day it was discovered.
Whoever released the animal would be facing three misdemeanor charges for abandonment, endangering the public to a wild animal, and animal cruelty, which could potentially result in jail time or thousands of dollars in fines, according to Mr. Gross. It is illegal in New York State to own an alligator without a permit.
Anybody who turns in an illegal reptile will receive a maximum fine of $250, but publicly releasing one could lead to a year in jail.
Over the past few weeks, the SPCA has gotten calls about other abandoned or released reptiles, including an iguana found in a pile of leaves in a Patchogue yard, a boa constrictor inside a broken fish tank in Mastic, and a 3-foot-long alligator in the Applebee’s parking lot in Shirley.
According to Mr. Gross, there’s still a $2,000 reward for anyone who leads the SPCA to the perpetrator who left the alligator in the parking lot. “Something of that size could have ripped a finger off an adult,” he said. “It was intentional, there was a note with that one.”
Mr. Gross wouldn’t divulge the contents of the letter.
“Alligators are too readily available,” he said. “Maybe it’s a result of impulse buying—to have a pet alligator. I can’t imagine watching TV and curling up with an alligator. Stick to dogs and cats. There’s a reason why it’s illegal.”
Mr. Gross added that the SPCA is giving out free dog and cat food to those who have been displaced or affected by Superstorm Sandy. Anyone who is in need can pick up the food at the SPCA’s Hauppauge location at 725 Veterans Memorial Highway, Building 16.