The four alligators that turned up on Long Island this week were probably pets abandoned by naive or uneducated owners, according to an expert at Riverhead's Long Island Aquarium.
It's not a unique problem, said reptile handler Julian Ansell. An entire tank at the aquarium, he said, is filled with exotic, large Amazon fish and reptiles that were abandoned after growing too large or becoming too expensive to keep.
"Every baby animal is very cute," said Ansell. "But they all grow up."
It is illegal to own an alligator in New York, Ansell explained. And for good reason. The alligators found this week can all grow to up to fourteen feet long and a thousand pounds.
"That's a crazy pet to have. That's not normal," said waitress JoAnn Harrington.
Harrington works at the Great Rock Golf Club in Wading River, where one of the alligators was found Monday. Two other alligators were found in a Baldwin parking lot. The other turned up in Mastic Beach. In each case, the alligators appeared relatively healthy.
The Nassau county SPCA is offering a $2000 reward for information leading to the arrest and conviction of the person or persons who abandoned the alligators in Baldwin. Anyone who can help is asked to call 516-THE SPCA.
"It's just a terrible idea," Ansell said of anyone trying to keep an alligator as a pet. "They never get used to people and they will always be dangerous."
The alligator found at the golf course will remain at the Aquarium, which plans a special exhibit to educate the public about keeping an alligator as a pet.
The other gators are expected to be returned to warmer and more appropriate climates.