Wrangling alligators is an extremely tough job, which is why it’s one left to the professionals. In a pinch, however, you can always use a bit of Crocodile Hunter knowledge.
At least, that was the mindset of the Oregon police who were tasked to deal with a bizarre reptile encounter in a resident’s driveway.
Depending on the location, calls to the police regarding alligators aren’t unusual. In Florida, for instance, it happens all the time. You wake up one morning, go out to your lanai to sip some coffee, and boom – there’s a gator lounging in your swimming pool.
In Oregon, though? That’s a strange one. The United States has a thriving gator population, of course, but all five million of them are spread out across the southeastern portion of the country. There, they not only get plenty of warm sun but an endless variety of swampy homes as well.
At the northwestern tip of the country, Oregon is about as far away from an American alligator’s habitat as you can get. As such, it was more than a little shocking for both the resident who found a gator in her driveway and the police asked to remove it.
But remove it, they did. And though they had no experience with reptile wrangling, they had plenty of Steve Irwin knowledge to lean on, thanks to his iconic series, The Crocodile Hunter.
Police shout out Steve Irwin following alligator relocation
It’s not that Oregon police have no experience with wildlife whatsoever. On the contrary, they’re used to receiving all sorts of calls about prowling bobcats, cougars, bears, and deer. Then, of course, there’s the occasional escaped farm animal.
While they have received calls making claims as wild as driveway alligators in the past, they’re typically the result of intoxication, not an actual animal sighting.
This time, however, was different. To the officers’ disbelief, there really was a gator in the resident’s driveway.
At first, they tried to contact the local game wardens. Though they likely didn’t have a lot of experience dealing with crocodilians either, they at least had in-depth knowledge of wildlife in general. Unfortunately, though, there was no one available to help.
With nowhere else to turn, the officers suited up in padded gloves and prepared to catch the alligator themselves. They had watched Steve Irwin do it a million times, how difficult could it be?
“Using the knowledge we gained from watching animal shows, like The Crocodile Hunter, we decided to wrangle it ourselves,” Grants Pass Officer Jonah Kopp told Newsweek. “I used one of our catch poles around its head to keep it from moving away.”
“It reared back and hissed, opening its jaws to display some small, but intimidating teeth. It was only a 3-foot gator, but it was incredibly strong.”
“I straddled its back and held its head still while another officer taped its jaws,” he continued. “I’m a fairly large person, and the alligator was still difficult to hold still. I have a new respect for the strength of these animals.”
Oregon gator relocated to local sanctuary
So, how did an alligator get all the way across the country? It didn’t make the 3,000-mile trip from Florida to Oregon all by itself, after all.
Well, after a bit of online sleuthing, the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife (ODFW) discovered the gator was actually an illegal pet housed nearby. “It was confirmed to have escaped its enclosure and walked just a few blocks away,” Kopp said.
This was a problem for a few reasons. First, an alligator requires specialized care, far above that needed for a dog or cat. Then there’s the obvious fact that a gator is a wild animal capable of inflicting serious injury.
Because of this, it’s illegal to own and provide care for crocodilians without a license in Oregon, as well as many other states. Typically, those who receive the required license are either representatives from educational organizations or animal sanctuaries.
As the alligator’s owner did not possess such a license, officers from the ODFW re-homed the little guy to a sanctuary in Salem, Oregon. Though it’s still not the swampy gator haven of Florida or Louisiana, it’s at least better than a backyard pen.