The alligator was so out of place in the woods, it didn't look real. Never thinking she'd see a real alligator in Andover, Mass. in the middle of November, Laurie Farrell automatically assumed it was a toy - until it moved. "I saw what I thought was a rubber alligator," she said yesterday. "I saw it move and I just bolted."
Farrell found the reptile while on a hike with her husband and two dogs Saturday morning. The alligator was close enough to the Andover Village Improvement Society trail she was on - half on the trail and half to the side of it - that Farrell almost stepped on it. "I was, like, inches from it," she said. The couple's two dogs, a coon named Cooper and Xena, a pug, did not notice the alligator, and walked right by it.
A creature more at home in the subtropical swamps of Florida than in the woods of Andover, the alligator has since been brought to an undisclosed facility where it will likely be used in educational programs. Experts said the alligator, about 30 inches in length, was most likely someone's pet that escaped or was intentionally released. "He definitely had been a pet," said Dr. Hamilton Lincoln, the veterinarian who treated the alligator at the Andover Animal Hospital. "There's no way that it could have come from the wild." Lincoln said keeping an alligator for a pet is not a good idea. Adults reach 8 to 10 feet and sometimes grow bigger.
Fearing that no one would believe her tale of an alligator in New England, Farrell made her husband, John, keep watch over it while she went home to call police. Police found it in the wooded area behind the Wyndham Andover hotel, off Old River Road and near both the Merrimack River and Interstate 93.
Officers picked up the alligator by hand, allowing Farrell to snap a picture before they took it to the animal hospital. Police Lt. Arthur Ricci said officers Brian Blouin and Jonathan Gagne had little trouble handling the alligator due to its small size. "It wasn't real, real big," Ricci said. "It wasn't a large Crocodile Dundee-type alligator." Still, doctors at the veterinarian hospital were surprised by their patient. "We've had all sorts of (animals)," said Diane Tower, the hospital's owner. "But never an alligator." When it was brought in, the alligator was suffering from the cold, felt like an "ice cube" and was close to death. The alligator was released from the hospital later on the same day and brought to a reptile facility where other professionals can take care of it. Though the location was not being disclosed to protect the alligator from too much unwanted attention, Lincoln issued assurances that it will be better off where it is then outside on its own. "It would never have survived the winter," he said.