In California, a region typically devoid of alligators due to its non-native habitat, there have been extraordinary instances of these reptiles surfacing, often as a result of peculiar circumstances such as escape from captivity or illegal importation. Here are accounts of the largest alligators ever discovered in the state, each with its unique narrative:
The 7-foot Alligator in Hemet
In April 2023, a 7-foot alligator dubbed Mr. Teeth was uncovered in a backyard pond in Hemet, Riverside County. The property owner, who had acquired the alligator as a hatchling from a Florida reptile dealer a decade prior, maintained it as a pet, nourishing it with chicken and fish.
However, California authorities intervened, citing the illegality of alligator ownership in the state without proper permits or enclosures. Confiscated by the California Department of Fish and Wildlife, Mr. Teeth was relocated to a wildlife sanctuary, though regrettably succumbed to stress and poor health shortly thereafter.
The 6-foot Alligator in Los Angeles
In August 2015, Los Angeles residents were astounded by the appearance of a 6-foot alligator, affectionately dubbed Jaxson, near the Los Angeles River. Captured by animal control officers utilizing a catch pole and dog crate, Jaxson was speculated to have been either abandoned by a former owner or escaped from a nearby sanctuary or zoo. After examination and quarantine at the Los Angeles Zoo, plans were made to find Jaxson a suitable habitat.
The 5-foot Alligator in Castro Valley
In January 2013, Castro Valley, Alameda County, witnessed the discovery of a 5-foot alligator, dubbed Mr. Teeth, guarding a stash of marijuana in a residential home. The owner, who purchased the alligator at a reptile expo in 1996, insisted on its use as a deterrent against theft. Despite the owner’s affection for the creature, legal violations prompted intervention by the Alameda County Sheriff’s Office, leading to Mr. Teeth’s relocation to the Oakland Zoo. Tragically, the alligator’s health deteriorated rapidly, resulting in its demise.
The 4-foot Alligator in Fremont
In October 2016, a 4-foot alligator was found in a creek in Fremont, Alameda County. Spotted by a fisherman, the alligator was deemed a threat to public safety and wildlife by authorities. Consequently, it was euthanized due to the lack of a suitable relocation option.
The 3-foot Alligator in Roseville
In July 2019, a 3-foot alligator was discovered in a Roseville pond, in Placer County, prompting intervention by the Roseville Police Department. Speculated to be a former pet, it was relocated to the Sacramento Zoo for examination and quarantine, with hopes of finding it a new home.
Despite California’s non-native status for alligators, these incidents underscore the occasional presence of these reptiles, often as a result of human intervention. Their appearance not only poses risks to public safety and wildlife but also highlights the importance of respecting wildlife and refraining from illegal ownership or release into the wild.