PHOENIX -- A Valley resident got a surprise, out of state visitor Saturday evening. He opened the door to find a two foot long American alligator.
The alligator is with the Phoenix Herpetological Society right now. An expert with PHS said it was probably someone's pet, and when it got too big the person just released it into a lake or canal.
The two or three year old alligator made chirping noises while being handled at PHS on Sunday. The sound is an instinctual call for the baby’s mother. But while its mom is probably a couple thousand miles away, the little alligator can certainly take care of itself.
“Their teeth are like little box cutters or blades. So they'll just cut skin like nothing,” said Daniel Marchand, a PHS curator.
Marchand said the alligator was likely abaondoned by someone who didn’t want to take care of it anymore and thought it would die in the desert.
Alligators are natives of Florida and the Gulf Coast states.
Even though alligator ownership is illegal in Arizona, PHS finds two or three alligators in Valley homes every month.
“Any animal that you consider a pet, that can grow one day big enough to eat you for lunch, that's not a pet,” said Marchand.
Most people think alligators can't survive in Arizona and in the desert. Marchand said just the opposite is true. In fact, he said gators can thrive in our climate and ecosystem.
“Over 80 million years, you're looking at a dinosaur right here,” said Marchand, referring to how long alligators have been on Earth. “These things have learned to survive and adapt in conditions that are just unheard of.”
The largest alligator ever found in Arizona is also at PHS. He's a nearly 500 pound monster named Clem, pulled out of a pond near the Grand Canyon when he was 20 years old.
“He was turned lose when he was this size,” said Marchand, holding up the two foot long gator found in Phoenix. “[He was] left in the desert to die and again, they don't die. They survive just fine.”
While the little gator found this weekend was nowhere near full grown, he was a year away from becoming pretty dangerous. Marchand said he would have started being predatory toward cats, dogs and children in a fairly short amount of time.
“As an adult this thing bites with over 3,000 pounds per square inch of bite force. It removes limbs at that point when it gets a little bit larger.”
Marchand said alligators are incredibly destructive to Arizona’s ecosystem because native animals are not equipped to compete with such a dominate predator.