Gator Discovery: Ranger Talks About ‘Unusual’ Find at Park

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STARK COUNTY, Ohio-- Tuesday afternoon may have been the strangest assignment yet for Justin Laps.

Police called the lieutenant park ranger out to Waterworks Park in Canton, where a crowd surrounded the most unlikely of visitors: an American alligator.

“It was a bit unusual,” Laps said. “When we got there, it wasn’t moving. It was very still.”

Laps and ranger, Carl Johnson, were able to capture the 3' alligator without trouble.

“Even though it did appear tame, it is still a wild animal and we were just concerned about everyone’s safety,” Laps said. “We grabbed some tape out of the car. Proceeded to grab it. Ranger Johnson taped its mouth shut and we proceed to tape its legs.”

Yet, how can an alligator, which is not native to Ohio, end up at the park?

“We assume that it was somebody’s pet and it was small when they got it and just got too big to their home,” said Stark County Park District Chief Dan George. “So, they dumped it.”

It is illegal to have an alligator in the State of Ohio, as it’s considered to be an exotic animal, George said.

The park rangers are working to find the reptile a suitable home. George said it may go to a university or an exotic animal farm.

Until then, it will stay at the Sanders Parks Wildlife Rehabilitation Center. The center takes care of nearly 2,000 animals a year.

“We were actually quite surprised how healthy it was; so in the end, it’s going to be a good situation,” Laps said.

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