Zoo to help nab alligator from lake in Westmoreland
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Henry Kacprzyk is about to attempt something he's never done before: trap an alligator in a Westmoreland County lake.
The reptile, estimated at about 5 feet long, remains very much a mystery to the people in charge of his fate. Workers at the Municipal Authority of Westmoreland County, which owns the Beaver Run Reservoir near where the alligator was spotted, have never seen the creature.
"I'm thinking if I capture the animal I could be a hero," Mr. Kacprzyk jokes. But really, he said, he's confident he can capture the animal if he is patient and persistent.
Authority workers learned of the cold-blooded creature's existence about a month ago, when a contractor spotted him, authority spokeswoman Gina Cerilli said. They originally intended to let the creature die when cold temperatures hit.
When the authority announced that decision, a local woman created a Facebook group called "Save the Beaver Run Alligator," fighting against what she called "animal cruelty."
Thursday, when the group had about 1,000 members, the authority announced in a statement that it now plans to work with the Pittsburgh Zoo to capture the animal.
Ms. Cerilli said she didn't think the Facebook group played a large role in the authority's surprise decision. She said the authority switched its mind when it learned the alligator had been spotted near a shoreline that residents often visit.
"The reservoir is not open to the public, so it wasn't a public safety concern [before]," she said.
Still, the Facebook followers celebrated, posting a message saying "OUR EFFORTS HAVE PAID OFF!!"
And now, Mr. Kacprzyk is left with the task of brainstorming how to track and capture an alligator in a 15-foot deep lake with 25 miles of linear shoreline, something he's never had to do in his 31 years working at the Pittsburgh Zoo, where he is currently the curator of reptiles.
Mr. Kacprzyk said he plans to meet with the zoo staff this week and with the municipal authority early next week. He will assemble a small team, which might include the zoo medic.
He will likely spend his first visit trying to spot signs the animal has been nearby. "I can't scout 25 miles of shoreline and be lucky enough to find the gator," he said.
He will look for dragging motions in a swishing pattern near the entrance to the water. A burst of warmer weather forecast for next week could help him because it will make the animal want to bask in the sun, he said.
If and when Mr. Kacprzyk finds the animal, he plans to create a wire trap. Inside, he'll place a chicken or some other meat and hope that the alligator gets to it before another animal does.
"I'm going into this thinking that we could do this," he said.
If he does succeed, he says he will hold the animal at the zoo until a permanent home can be found and hope that others get the message that "alligators don't make good pets."
First Published October 7, 2011 12:00 am