Pittsburgh Zoo workers will try to capture alligator

Reptile makes its home in Beaver Run Reservoir

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Pittsburgh Zoo workers, including a medic, traveled to the Beaver Run Reservoir Tuesday in hopes of spotting an alligator who has made the lake his home.

They didn't find the reptile or any signs that he had been moving about. But after scouting parts of the 25-mile-long shoreline and meeting with representatives from the Municipal Authority of Westmoreland County, they decided to attempt to capture the animal by placing a wire trap near the shore, possibly as early as today.

"I'm confident we'll be able to trap it," said Henry Kacprzyk, curator of reptiles at the zoo.

The cold-blooded creature, thought to be a discarded pet, was first spotted in the lake about a month ago. The Municipal Authority of Westmoreland County, which owns the reservoir, originally planned to let the animal die in the water when cold temperatures hit but reversed its decision following a public outcry and a spotting of the alligator near a shoreline that residents often visit.

No one from the Municipal Authority had seen the alligator until Monday. A security worker spotted the gator near a shoreline and tied a ribbon around a nearby tree.

Mr. Kacprzyk plans to set up the trap in a sunny spot across from where the gator was last seen. The wire trap will be 7 feet long, 2 feet wide and 2 feel tall when zoo workers finish it. People who have seen the alligator estimated that it is about 5 feet long, but Mr. Kacprzyk said, "My experience is people overestimate" the size of snakes, alligators and other reptiles.

When the trap is done, possibly as early as Wednesday, a zoo employee will drive it to the lake.

They'll place frozen herring inside the trap because it has a high fat content and "tends to smell" and will place it partially underwater to minimize the chances of racoons, bears or other animals wandering into it, Mr. Kacprzyk said. If that doesn't work, they might try using frozen chicken, mice or other animals for bait.

A Municipal Authority worker will drive by the trap periodically and call the zoo if and when the alligator wanders inside. The zoo will then come to whisk the animal away and will give it temporary shelter until a permanent home can be found.

Mr. Kacprzyk and Municipal Authority representatives said they do not have a timeline for capturing the alligator.

The temperature in the lake was about 62 degrees Tuesday. Mr. Kacprzyk estimated that temperatures in the lake will remain conducive to the alligator for at least the next three weeks.

"That alligator is going to have a ... sanctuary for some time," Mr. Kacprzyk said.

Liz Navratil: lnavratil@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1438.


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