Expert says gator found on I-69 was not a pet
The three-foot-long alligator found by drivers along I-69 early Saturday morning was not a pet.
That's the expert opinion of Ron Billingsley, who operates Indiana Reptile Expo in Strawtown, just north of Noblesville.
"He's not a happy camper at all," said Billingsley as the gator lunged at him and hissed. "A captive-born, raised gator, I can reach right down pick it up and hold it, it's fine. That thing has never been around humans."
Billingsley was called to help after a driver spotted the strange sight along I-69 early Saturday morning and called 911.
"We just saw...I swear it's like an alligator on the side of the road," the caller said.
"Just sitting there?" the dispatcher asked.
"Yeah, it's kinda just sitting there. It just, like, looked at us a little bit. Yeah, it's definitely alive," the caller replied.
Two days later, Billingsley tries to grab the gator, which he estimates is about three years old, essentially a baby.
"He's never been held. I can tell that wasn't somebody's pet," he said.
So how did the cold-blooded, warm-weather reptile end up in foreign territory?
"I'm guessing someone seen it crossing the road in Florida and brought it back and thought they had something and it either got away from them or they turned it loose," Billingsley said.
Probably a good thing, because this would make a very bad pet.
"See, it's not domesticated at all," Billingsley said as the gator continues to hiss and snap.
Tuesday, the gator is being shipped south, to live out his life at a reptile reserve in Alabama.
Indiana law does allow anyone to own an alligator under five-feet long and a permit is required for gators longer than that. They can be purchased in some pet stores and online.
But keep in mind, a small alligator can grow up to 12 feet long and cannot survive Indiana's cold winters.