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Alligators aren’t meant for our rivers

Austin Randall, holds his pet alligator, Neo, who escaped, was caught in the Kiski River over the weekend. Submitted photo

On Friday, Feb. 9, the search for an alligator in Butler County came to a close. The story has a happy ending: The reptile will be rehabilitated at Nate’s Reptile Rescue until he is transported to Florida or Texas.

The alligator’s capture follows a very similar story written just about six months earlier. On Aug. 6, a couple of anglers fishing in the Kiski River in Armstrong County caught an abandoned alligator, dubbed Chomper, that people had been reporting sightings of since July 30.

The Butler County alligator, known as Neo, escaped from his Lyndora owner’s custody Aug. 29, while being transported to a friend’s home in Armstrong County.

In a September interview, owner Austin Randall said he was taking Neo to stay with a friend of his in Kiskiminetas Township, but the alligator escaped, prompting people to search for him along the Kiski River.

Neo went on to elude his potential capture until Friday as the search for alligators became somewhat of a sport for kayakers along the Kiski River.

But the matter was much more serious for police.

Lee Bartolicius, chief of Kiskiminetas Township police, said in September he was working with animal control officers to capture Neo and encouraged sightings be reported immediately.

He further expressed concern at the time that there may have been another alligator in addition to Neo on the loose at that time.

“It is my department’s ultimate goal to locate, capture and relocate these alligators. Furthermore, it is our secondary goal to locate and arrest the irresponsible owners who are intentionally releasing these alligators into the wild,” he said at that time.

We’re fortunate to be reporting a happy ending to this story. Innumerable situations could have unfolded, some including injury to a person or an ill-fate for the alligator.

Besides that, the Kiskiminetas Township police simply do not have time to be wasting chasing around alligators.

It’s illegal to release a nonnative species into a waterway, but there’s no regulation of nonnative species like Neo and Chomper being pets — assuming they aren’t released, per the Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission's website.

Simply put, if you want a pet alligator, please keep it out of the rivers.

— TL

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