Missouri man finds alligator in backyard; turns out to be neighbor’s lost pet

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WILDWOOD, Mo. (KTVI) — Chris Suljak was mowing his backyard and cutting down tree limbs when he saw something you don’t find in Missouri very often.

“Usually, when I come down here, I hear about 15 to 20 bullfrogs jump in the water. First off, it was dead silent,” Suljak said. “I hear something on the shore, and I started to hear a noise. I went around and all I heard was a splash, a tail go in the water and I saw a pretty good size tail.”

What he saw was an alligator. Suljak said his stepdaughter heard him scream an expletive and asked if he was okay.

“I said, ‘No, I just saw an alligator,’ and she started laughing,” he said. “So needless to say, everyone started running down here.”

Suljak said his son-in-law and stepdaughter had just arrived from out of state, and his stepson jumped out of the car to help get the alligator out of the creek behind his house. 

“I rigged up a pole with my dog leash on it and we just made a noose,” he said. “It took us about three hours because he kept outsmarting us and going to the deep end. I said, ‘We got to get him out,’ and we did. It was fun actually.” 

He said the alligator was 54 inches long and weighed about 50 pounds. Suljak’s 11-year-old stepson, Marcus Williamson, recorded the capture. 

“We’re getting live footage, folks,” he commentated on the video. The alligator hissed as they taped his mouth and got him out of the water. “I know, buddy, you lost the battle today,” he added.

Suljak said Bi-State Wildlife Hotline sent a rescuer who took the gator away in a cage.

He said he later found out the alligator belongs to a neighbor a few miles away, and it had been missing for two weeks. 

“He told me it happened to climb the fence. He said it had never done that,” Suljak said. “I think the thing’s name is Fluffy.”

He believes the alligator was returned to the owner.

American alligators typically live in areas from North Carolina to Texas’ Rio Grande and are usually found in freshwater rivers, according to the Smithsonian’s National Zoo & Conservation Biology Institute. They are not native to Missouri.

According to a Missouri State statute, having a pet alligator is legal and it would only have to be registered with the health department if it is more than 8 feet long.

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