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A Gator on the Loose in Southern California

A net has been strung across the Harbor City lake to help corner the rogue alligator.
Mandalit del Barco, NPR
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A net has been strung across the Harbor City lake to help corner the rogue alligator.
From left: Gatorworld reptile wranglers Tim Williams -- the "dean of animal wrestlers -- and Flavio Morrisey.
Mandalit del Barco, NPR /
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From left: Gatorworld reptile wranglers Tim Williams -- the "dean of animal wrestlers -- and Flavio Morrisey.

For the past several weeks, an alligator has taken up residence in a lake in a park in Harbor City, a small oasis of green surrounded by industrial parks, freeways and office buildings in south Los Angeles County.

How did the animal get there? It began as a mystery -- the working theory was that a pet got too big for its owner and was dumped into the lake.

The truth, it turns out, adds to the mystery. Two men, one of them a former Los Angeles police officer, have been arrested on felony charges for dumping what's believed to be a six-foot, 150-pound alligator into Lake Machado.

Arresting officers found a whole reptile habitat at the former cop's suburban home, including three other alligators, desert tortoises and a rattlesnake, plus piranhas and six marijuana plants.

Attempts to catch the alligator have created a sensation. Hordes of people have come to get a glimpse of the creature, scanning the shoreline from behind police tape.

The power boats, bright lights and the commotion of the search so far may have spooked the big reptile into hiding.

If the fugitive gator is caught, plans are to find a new home at a reptile theme park in Florida called Gatorland, or maybe at the L.A. Zoo. A team of experts from the theme park continue to troll the waters of Lake Machado, hoping to lure the gator out of hiding, and into their nets.

Copyright 2022 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

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As an arts correspondent based at NPR West, Mandalit del Barco reports and produces stories about film, television, music, visual arts, dance and other topics. Over the years, she has also covered everything from street gangs to Hollywood, police and prisons, marijuana, immigration, race relations, natural disasters, Latino arts and urban street culture (including hip hop dance, music, and art). Every year, she covers the Oscars and the Grammy awards for NPR, as well as the Sundance Film Festival and other events. Her news reports, feature stories and photos, filed from Los Angeles and abroad, can be heard on All Things Considered, Morning Edition, Weekend Edition, Alt.latino, and npr.org.
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