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Pet alligator escapes from Oregon garage

Associated Press

MEDFORD, Ore. – It is not often that police get a call about an alligator on the loose in Medford.

But the call came Thursday after owner Paul Sabin was distracted caring for another sick pet, a 12-foot Burmese python.

Sabin says the small alligator, named Usal, generally will run if confronted by a human. But he warns not to get close to the 3 1/2-foot-long reptile if he is spotted.

“Reach for him, and he’ll probably try to bite,” Sabin said.

Authorities are warning Medford residents to call them if Usal shows up on their block.

“It would not be safe for a person to approach it,” said police Lt. Mike Moran.

Police responded to Sabin’s call at about 11:30 p.m. Thursday and searched more than an hour, Moran said.

“We’ve had snakes and lizards loose before, but never a gator,” said Moran, who was surprised to find there is no state law or local ordinance on alligator ownership.

The alligator prefers dining on frogs, fish and turtles, but will snack on a mammal if he’s hungry enough, Sabin said.

“I feel horrible,” he said. “I’m afraid somebody’s going to get hurt or lose a pet.”

Sabin, who adopts reptiles that are not properly cared for by previous owners, said he never had an alligator until Usal arrived about three months ago. The alligator had been living a cramped existence inside a 4-foot aquarium and was in poor health, Sabin said.

He moved Usal into a 1,500-gallon swimming pool in his garage and nursed the 3-year-old gator back to health. Usal apparently maintains a forceful bite, despite the fact he lost several teeth while living with a previous owner in Medford.

“I don’t think he’d be able to bite off somebody’s hand, but he could probably break some fingers,” Sabin said.

The animal escaped when Sabin left the garage door open while he was tending to a sick snake, which later died.

If Usal is located, Sabin hopes to stick with a plan to move him to a Denver-area facility called Colorado Gators, which currently houses about 400 alligators. But he worries that Usal may have crawled into a storm drain.

“If he’s down there, he’s as good as dead,” Sabin said. “I hope that’s not what happened.”

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