A Southampton Town resident found a surprise in her home's window well on Saturday — a young alligator, according to the Suffolk County Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals.
Chief Roy Gross said this is the ninth alligator found in the county in the past month and a half, an unprecedented amount in the Suffolk SPCA's 29-year history.
“Somebody must have had it as a pet," Gross said. "Either it got out, or they dumped it."
Owning an alligator without a permit is a violation that amounts to a $250 fine, Gross said. However, he explained, when an alligator is let loose, the owner could face criminal charges related to abandonment, endangering the public and animal cruelty.
An animal cruelty charge would arise because the reptile would have died in the cold weather had it not been found, Gross said. “An alligator certainly can’t survive in this type of climate.”
He estimates that the person or persons releasing alligators in Suffolk County, whether the incidents or related or not, face three years in prison. Meanwhile, if they called the SPCA or DEC about their alligators themselves, they could just pay the fine, give up their reptiles and move on, Gross said.
The alligator found in Southampton Town is a male, about 18 inches long. Gross said he does not know where specifically in town it was found.
The alligator was taken in by the Long Island-based Star Foundation, and will live out its life on a preserve, according to the SPCA.
Gross said anyone with information should contact the Suffolk County SPCA at 631-382-SPCA.