Conservation officers from the Illinois Department of Natural Resources (IDNR) recently removed a 6-foot, 200-pound alligator from a home in Lansing, Illinois. According to officials, the alligator was kept in a cage in the basement for the past 26 years, and fed mostly scraps of food including chicken breasts. The homeowner, Charles Price, is set to appear in court for unlawfully possessing an endangered species, which carries a misdemeanor charge in Illinois.
“No one knew he had it, no one had ever seen it,” IDNR Sgt. Bill Shannon told the Chicago Tribune.
Price however, said the animal was not the big secret that officials are making it out to be. He told reporters that he took very good care of the animal and is now fighting to have it returned. You can see a short interview with him below:
Shannon added that Price occasionally let the animal roam around his backyard, which presented a public safety hazard. Alligators should never be treated as tame animals, even if they appear to be domesticated. The predators are opportunistic by nature and will eat just about anything that it can swallow. This includes fish of all sizes, snakes, turtles, bobcats, deer, and even small black bears. Alligators are believed to be the only natural predator of adult cougars.
A mature alligator is not only dangerous to pets and small children, but adults as well. Shannon said that Price was very fortunate not to have been injured during his lengthy ownership of the animal. According to ABC 7 Chicago, Price told officials that he received the reptile when it was very young at a swap meet in Kankakee. For more than two decades the alligator stayed a secret, even from some of his neighbors, until an appliance repairman noticed the reptile while working in Price’s basement. The repairman took photos of the animal and forwarded them to the police, which sent the pictures on over to the IDNR.
Experts say that alligators remain a popular choice for illegal pets, but maintaining one is a difficult proposition. Most illegally kept alligators do not receive the proper food or are housed in the right environment, sometimes leading to health problems and stunted size.