Frederick County Animal Control officers found themselves in a unique situation Thursday when a county homeowner reported finding what was either a juvenile alligator or caiman swimming in a small pond on their property.
“It’s not something we typically handle, so we don’t have much experience in catching free-swimming alligators,” said animal control supervisor Sgt. Dave Luckenbaugh, when reached for comment Friday. “We were first alerted to this yesterday afternoon, so we had two officers respond and then another first thing this morning.”
While the reptile remained on the loose as of Friday afternoon, Luckenbaugh said the agency was doing its best to safely and humanely capture the creature as quickly as possible, especially considering the cooler weather that is likely uncomfortable to the animal during the night.
While Luckenbaugh admitted he was not personally familiar enough with the animal to classify it, he said animal control does believe it is either an young American alligator or possibly a caiman, a closely-related subfamily of the crocodilian order to alligators and crocodiles.
The critter is approximately two and a half to three feet long, and seems content to stay in the area of the small, isolated pond on the property, but the environment is still large enough to give animal control officers a hard time cornering the animal.
“We’ve not reached out to anybody outside of our county who deals with these animals on a regular basis as of today,” Luckenbaugh said, adding that he was confident his officers were up to the task. “... It’s not a big pond, but it’s just big enough for him to have a little bit of room to maneuver in.”
Animal control did not provide an address for the property or even a general location, preferring to keep the area as quiet as possible until they are able to capture the reptile.
Alligators and caimans are both prohibited under the state’s exotic animal laws, with only special permits being allowed for zoos and designated animal sanctuaries, Luckenbaugh said, meaning the creature was most likely an illegally-owned pet that was released into the wild. It was not known exactly how long the crocodilian had been on the loose, Luckenbaugh said.
Once the creature is captured, it will likely be taken to either a zoo or sanctuary where it can be kept safely, Luckenbaugh said. While uncommon, animal control has worked with the Catoctin Zoo in Thurmont to take such animals in the past, but other options are also available in Baltimore and Washington, D.C., Luckenbaugh said.