Santa Fe man had gator at business

The 7-foot alligator discovered at a Santa Fe man’s business. The man could face prison time and a fine for keeping the animal. Courtesy New Mexico Department of Game and Fish

A Santa Fe man could be facing up to a year in prison and $1,000 in fines for keeping an exotic animal after city animal control officers found a 7-foot alligator living at his business. State law prohibits people from owning most types of wildlife, including alligators.

After receiving a report about the reptile and finding it at the business, animal control officers called in officials from the New Mexico Game and Fish Department, who transferred the alligator to the ABQ BioPark Zoo in Albuquerque.

“Officers went out and seized the animal and transported it to the BioPark,” said James Pitman, a spokesman for the Game and Fish Department. “It was in a small area inside a building, and there were some health issues with the alligator.”

Because the case is still active, he said, the department is not yet naming the suspect or releasing the name or address of the business. Pitman said the man had owned the alligator for 10 years.

Representatives of the zoo could not be reached for comment on the animal.

According to a Santa Fe Animal Services Division report, a man called the agency around 12:50 p.m. Aug. 14 to say there was an alligator being kept in an enclosure at the business with a “kiddy pool and vinyl floor.” The caller said he was concerned about the animal’s living conditions.

This is not the first time an alligator — native to states in the Southeastern U.S. — has been found in Santa Fe. In the summer of 2013, Animal Services Division officers captured a 2-foot-long alligator after a homeowner’s dog had cornered the reptile in a yard in the 2700 block of Galisteo Road.

That gator, which had its mouth taped shut at the time of its capture, is now thriving at the Colorado Gators Reptile Park in Mosca, Colo., near the Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve, said Jay Young, co-owner of the alligator farm. He said workers at the farm named the animal Rio.

Young said it’s unwise to keep an alligator as a pet.

“It’s a terrible idea,” he said. “… People get baby alligators because they’re cute and a novelty, but when they start to grow three to four feet long, they start biting kids’ fingers. They get large and dangerous and eat all your other pets — and you, if you get close.”

He said it’s likely the new Santa Fe gator will end up at his farm, which has about 300 alligators — some 200 of which are rescues, he said.

Earlier this summer, an Albuquerque couple found an alligator near the Rio Grande and caught it before turning it over to animal control. Young said that gator is now at his farm, too.

While it would be difficult for alligators in the wild to survive in most parts of New Mexico, he said, they could survive in the southern part of the state. Recently, there have been U.S. Border Patrol and media reports of alligator sightings in the Rio Grande along the border with Mexico.

General Assignment Reporter

Robert Nott has covered education and youth issues for the Santa Fe New Mexican. He is assigned to The New Mexican's city desk where he covers a general assignment beat.

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