“They called us and said, ‘Gosh, we really don’t have any place to put this,’ so naturally we were happy to take it,” said Chris Gentile, director of WNC Nature Center.
The alligator, which measures under a foot in length and is estimated to be about 4 months old, stayed at the nature center for five days before the NCWRC found it a new home. Though Gentile doesn’t know where exactly the reptile is going, he can say that it’s headed to an organization that has the proper permits to care for an American alligator.
In North Carolina, there’s no law preventing people from owning exotic species like tigers or lions, but it’s illegal to keep most species native to the state. Alligators fall into that category.
“People I don’t think necessarily know that some of these things are illegal because there was a time maybe 30, 40 years ago that you could go down to Wilmington, catch an alligator, keep it as a pet and nobody really thought anything of it,” Gentile said. However, the post-Endangered Species Act world is a little different.
The alligator isn’t the first confiscated animal to pass through the WNC Nature Center. Though the center contains a permanent collection of native plants and animals that includes the American hellbender, cougar, red fox and screech owl, it also plays host to animals, like the alligator, in need of a place to stay — something like a halfway house, Gentile said.
In fact, this is the second alligator that Gentile has seen come through the doors in his five years at the nature center. And, interestingly enough, the last one came from Haywood County as well.
“It’s kind of unusual that both had come from the same area,” he said.