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Monday, April 2nd, 2007
By Shelley Grieshop
Really - there was an alligator in the lake
  Boaters took a double take on Friday when they spotted a 4-foot-long alligator on a ramp at the West Bank boat docks in Celina.
After a closer look, it was determined the young gator - with a fish hook in its mouth and fishing line wrapped around its jaws - was indeed dead, officials said.
"If you know how alligators act when they get something in their mouth, this one probably did a death roll and got tangled in the line," said Dave Sheets of the Ohio Department of Natural Resources Division of Wildlife.
Officials aren't sure whether the reptile died of strangulation from the fishing line or if the cold water of Grand Lake killed it. The creature is native to the southern United States and would not have tolerated the chilly waterways of Ohio very long this time of year, Sheets said.
Except for a few bite marks on its skin likely from other animals, the reptile hadn't decomposed much and officials believe it was in the lake just a few weeks.
"It probably was somebody's pet and it got too big. This is a problem in the state of Ohio and other places. People want exotic pets, and when they get too large, they just dump them," Sheets said.
This isn't the first time a reptile was found in the local lake. Sheets said about 10 years ago a South American Caiman crocodile was found along Southmoor Shores. It, too, was likely placed there when the owner decided it was too big to care for, he added.
Abandoning or dumping items on state property is a misdemeanor and violators could face fines if convicted, according to the Ohio Revised Code.
If the young alligator had been found alive, it likely wouldn't have caused life-threatening injuries even though it has razor-sharp teeth, Sheets said.
"It certainly could bite you, but it's not going to kill you," he said.
Sheets said he's just glad it isn't summer when the alligator may have survived longer in the water. A male American Alligator can grow to 1,000 pounds and approximately 14 feet in length. Their diet typically consists primarily of fish, birds and turtles.
The alligator found Friday was taken to the Grand Lake St. Marys State Park where it was measured and admired for a while before being disposed of on the back of a garbage truck, park Manager Craig Manager said.
Officials want the public to heed their message:
"Think twice before purchasing exotic animals. There's usually a lot of requirements to take care of them and most of these pets can be expensive," Sheets said. "Even though they might be cuddly and cute when you get them, it doesn't take long before they're more than most people can handle."
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