Who abandoned an alligator

Townsend, MA

Jul. 18, 2006

(photo courtesy of Jonathan Graham, Fitchburg Sentinel & Enterprise) A truck driver first saw the 6-foot long reptile sunning itself in the road, in a residential neighborhood off Route 13, at about 11:30 a.m. yesterday, a few feet away from a swampy area near a culvert. And it clearly wasn't happy siting their in the middle of Old City Road, its mouth duct taped shut.

It took Townsend Police Officer Thadeus Rochette and 2 State Environmental Police officers about 45 minutes to capture it.

Even with its jaws sealed shut; if he had gotten the tape off, we would have had a lot bigger problem," said Rochette, highlighting the obvious. "We probably would have had to shoot it." The officers said even a swipe of the animal's large claws could cause severe lacerations.

One officer had to hold onto the alligator's tail while the other two tried to get ropes around its neck.

"You try to corner him as fast as you can and try to get lines on him," said Environmental Police Officer Joseph Paolilli Jr.

The alligator hissed as officers moved it into a pickup truck, with one officer carrying its tail and the other carrying its head.

Children and adults from the neighborhood nervously stood next to the pickup and studied the alligator. They jumped back as it flailed around the truck bed, trying to shake free of its restraints.

It is illegal to own an alligator in Massachusetts, though it is legal in New Hampshire, Paolilli said.

Michael Ralbovsky, who owns Rain Forest Reptile Shows in Beverly, said he will take care of the animal for a few weeks before sending it to the St. Augustine Alligator Farm and Zoological Park in Florida.

"That animal can be quite dangerous," Ralbovsky said. "It can be extremely dangerous to a child."

He said releasing an alligator into a residential area is "simply reckless." Whoever did this "needs to go to jail," he said.

Ralbovsky said the alligator suffered an injury on its mouth, apparently from trying to tear the tape off, and needed a tooth pulled.

He estimated the reptile's age at between 4 and 7 years old.

Police believe someone either dumped the alligator or that it escaped from somewhere locally during a "relocation attempt."

Environmental Police officers often have to go retrieve escaped or dumped alligators, most commonly around Lowell and Fitchburg. He said he has already picked up two gators in Massachusetts this year.

"Anybody who has any information about the owner should contact the Townsend Police Department," Rochette said. "I would love to have a chat with (the owner)."

Anyone with information is asked to call (978) 597-2313.

Update:  July 19, 2006

A 2nd alligator has been taken into custody in the same area.  Police believe they know who the owner of the illegal animals are but are not disclosing that information at this time.


The Lowell Sun

The Fitchburg Sentinel & Enterprise