Yesterday HAWS got a call from the Muskego Police Department asking us to come and pick up an animal. This isn't an unusual request -- HAWS does pick-ups of animals all over Waukesha County. Sometimes it's a stray cat, dog or even ferret that someone found. Sometimes it's a sick or injured native Wisconsin wild animal that we then transfer to a wild-life rehabilitation center.
What made this particular call unusual is that it was a wild animal that isn't native to Wisconsin.
Someone fishing in Big Muskego Lake had seen an alligator over a period of several days and was finally able to capture it. Obviously alligators are not a species native to Wisconsin. The alligator isn't talking, but we assume that he (she?) was someone's pet that had become too difficult to keep, and so that person decided to get rid it it by releasing it into the lake.
Unfortunately the easy way out for the human was the worst thing to do for the alligator. A native of the southeastern part of the United States, the American Alligator would be incapable of surviving the cold temperatures and icy water we get here during Wisconsin winters.
This is not the first alligator found in the midwest this year. About a month ago an alligator was found in the Chicago River -- most likely a victim of a different pet owner unable to care for an animal that was getting bigger and more aggressive.
American Alligators are very aggressive, can live up to 60 years, and can grow to be 13 feet long. It would be very difficult for most people to provide an appropriate habitat for an alligator when full grown, and it would be a dangerous animal to keep without proper precautions. It's not fair to keep a wild animal as a baby only to "get rid of it" as it grows and becomes more difficult to manage.
However, if someone does have an animal they can no longer keep, we encourage them to surrender them to their local animal shelter -- where the animal can be properly cared for.
In the meantime - the HAWS alligator is basking in the warmth of a heath lamp. In a few days he'll be transferred to a reputable rescue in Illinois where he'll get the care that he needs and deserves.