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Published: Saturday, 7/26/2014 - Updated: 4 months ago

Small gator retrieved from Perrysburg creek

Local expert captures nearly 5-foot reptile

BY MATT THOMPSON
BLADE STAFF WRITER
Lt. Jerrod Savidge, commander of the Ohio Highway Patrol's Bowling Green post, holds an alligator found on the bank of a creek near Hull Prairie and Roachton roads. Lt. Jerrod Savidge, commander of the Ohio Highway Patrol's Bowling Green post, holds an alligator found on the bank of a creek near Hull Prairie and Roachton roads.
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An alligator recovered from a Perrysburg Township creek this week is on its way to an out-of-state sanctuary, and Ohio wildlife officials say there’s little chance they will discover who owned the reptile.

Brett Gates, an Ohio Department of Agriculture spokesman, said the agency isn’t investigating how the alligator ended up in the creek and said no one claimed ownership.

“My best guess is it was a pet that got too big and someone let it go — not near there though, I think it just found its way there,” said Paul Garland, a Perrysburg Township man who volunteered to wade into the unnamed creek and capture the creature when two women discovered it Thursday.

Mr. Garland is the co-owner of M&P Reptiles, which brings animals to special events. They have tortoises, turtles, frogs, pythons, and salamanders, among other creatures, but not alligators.

While the animals are occasionally spotted in this region, Mr. Gates said Ohio typically doesn’t have many. Mr. Garland said he’s heard of some alligators in the Maumee River, but he was shocked to see one in such a small water area. The tributary where the alligator was found feeds into the Maumee River.

A mother and daughter were riding their bicycles to get ice cream when they saw the 4 to 5-foot-long American alligator on the side of the road next to the creek at Roachton and Hull Prairie roads.

“Without a doubt [they were scared],” said Lt. Jerrod Savidge, commander of the Ohio Highway Patrol’s Bowling Green post. “It was obviously a pet sometime this year because I can’t imagine an alligator surviving this winter.”

Lieutenant Savidge said he has never seen anything like this in his career, so when he heard the call to dispatch, he jumped in his car to see it for himself.

While Lieutenant Savidge was waiting for an exotic animal officer to arrive from Columbus, the gator went down in the creek and began swimming away. Lieutenant Savidge didn’t want it getting away, and the crowd that had gathered became concerned about an alligator roaming nearby neighborhoods. That’s when Lieutenant Savidge remembered nearby resident Mr. Garland used to have alligators, so he went to Mr. Garland’s house.

Mr. Garland was happy to go into the creek and get the animal. After a brief wrestling match, he had the gator on the bank, held it down, and taped its mouth.

“No doubt he knew what he was doing,” Lieutenant Savidge said. “It was just like on TV.”

Mr. Garland entered the water in his waders and began tapping the gator’s tail and head to distract it. For a second, the gator was able to get in deeper water and get behind Mr. Garland, but only momentarily, he said.

Then Mr. Garland got behind it, grabbed its tail, went behind its back legs “to have more control,” and then held its head. He was able to carry the creature out of the water without anyone being injured.

“It was not scary,” he said. “It’s something I’ve been used to doing. I understand if you haven’t dealt with it you would be nervous and freak out.”

After troopers snapped several pictures with the animal, Mr. Garland put it in one of his crates until the Ohio Department of Agriculture arrived at about 7:30 p.m. to take the gator. Mr. Garland thought it was about 5 feet long, while ODA officials said 4 feet.

“That was the most bizarre thing,” Mr. Garland said. “Why is there a gator here in Perrysburg?”

In June, 2012, Ohio Gov. John Kasich signed a law that regulated the possession of dangerous wild animals, including alligators. Owners must have a permit to keep an alligator. Animals must have a microchip and sufficient caging.

Mr. Gates asks that anyone with knowledge of the animal call 855-392-6496 to report it.

Contact Matt Thompson at: mthompson@theblade.com, 419-356-8786, or on Twitter at @mthompson25.



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