City officials said they received a tip that someone was keeping an alligator in their home.
On Wednesday, police and officials from Winnipeg’s Animal Services Agency went to check it out.
There, they found a 60-centimetre-long American alligator. The animal was seized by officials as it is illegal to keep one as a pet in the city.
Leland Gordon works with the city’s Animal Services agency.
He said he can understand why someone would want a baby alligator for a pet.
“It’s a beautiful animal, you know,” he said. “This animal is so cute, but people have to understand that they grow incredibly long and large and they pose a safety risk."
Officials said the reptile could have grown to be over four metres long and weigh over 450 kilograms.
Gordon added the risk isn’t just to the people who care for it but to the animal itself.
“What kind of quality of life can somebody give a large alligator in Winnipeg, Manitoba? Or yet anywhere in Manitoba?” he said. “As most people know, American alligators are native to the southern states.”
He explained the alligators are normally found in the southern United States in Florida, Louisiana and Texas.
Unusual call, animal services says
With their natural habitat so far away, calls for alligators are unusual, Gordon said.
“We occasionally get calls or snakes running in our community, chickens, turtles. They’re not very common, but this is the first in recent history that we’ve had an alligator call,” he said.
Jeff McFarlane of Aardvark Pets, a pet shop in Winnipeg, said the animals are more common in Manitoba than most people would think.
“There’s no limit to what some people will do to have something exotic, weird or wonderful that they think is appropriate,” said McFarlane.
He explained animals can get smuggled across the border or legally imported and not all municipalities in the province have strict exotic pet by-laws.
“There’s no way of stopping them interprovincially. There are certain areas where they can be legally imported and from there, it’s just a matter of finding someone that’s got one,” he said.
Gator in quarantine
For now, the seized gator is being held at the Assinibione Park Zoo under quarantine.
Chris Enright is the head of veterinary services at the zoo. The facility already holds three Cayman alligators. They grow to be about 68 kg, a fraction of what American alligators can grow to.
He said the public should be aware of how dangerous the animals can be.
“Just by interacting with these animals, feeding these animals, cleaning up after these animals, there is a risk of accidental injury, and the bite from one of these animals is crushing. It can do a lot of damage,” he said.
The animal will remain in quarantine at the zoo until animal services officials can find an accredited zoo to take it in.