Manhattan Kansas is known for being the home of K-State but was full of mystery and intrigue this month. According to the Manhattan Mercury, this is the rough timeline of events including theft, 911 calls, government intervention, a hunt, and a disastrous end fitting for a man from down under.
June 5, 2020 – a pair of five-foot alligators are stolen from Reptile World. It is illegal to privately own these animals, but the pet store has a special license to display them. The animals in question were both originally rescues. A male and female. One rescued from the pool at a residence and the second, unbelievably, from a bathtub in someone’s home. The theft from the pet store is of course reported to the police.
So first of all, this isn’t a five-finger discount theft. Someone didn’t pick up a chinchilla and walk out of the pet store, this is a heist. You can’t just walk in and carry a five-foot alligator out of the store twice without some kind of planning. And this is pretty far away from crocodile HQ (Rockefeller Wildlife Rescue in Louisiana). Although the image of a couple of random people wrangling five-foot alligators into the back of some small sedan is hilarious, this had to have taken at least some planning.
Stealing alligators isn’t exactly a spur of the moment decision. Unless you drive a truck pre-loaded with beer and buddies, in which case maybe it is. Ha! Imagine that one, “Hey, hold my beer. Imma chuck that gator in the back of Jerry’s truck.”
What makes someone want to steal man-sized alligators?
June 11, 2020 – a man walking a trail along Wildcat Creek calls 911 when he sees, you guessed it, a five-foot alligator sunning itself on a log. Animal control responds and spots the gator later in the day the creek sunning itself. Overnight they set up a live trap to catch the animal, but without success. No one knows how this alligator got into the waterway, nor the whereabouts of the second gator.
So at least one gator is on the lam. If someone went to all the trouble to steal a pair of gators, I would personally think that it was for some reason, I know that some people have secret menageries with forbidden animals. But this duo was dumped. Did Bubba and his boys drop him off in the creek? Was it orchestrated by some misguided animal activists? Was it PETA? It may never come to light.
Here is my theory. Given the proximity to a major university campus and the exotic nature of the animals, this was a poorly conceived prank.
Jun 12, 2020 – local law enforcement and animal control give up and focus their efforts on public safety. They leave the work of capturing the animal(s) up to Reptile World since they have the expertise. A trap is chained to a nearby tree and strapped to a log and set. Officials do not know the whereabouts of the second animal.
So far the second alligator (the larger of the two) has not been spotted. It could literally be anywhere. There is food aplenty in the waterways the first gator was spotted. It is very likely they could live there quite happily for some time, but would not survive the harsh Kansas winter, so there was a clock ticking for their capture. Especially considering they are difficult to capture under ideal circumstances.
Deb Watkins, director of the T. Russell Reitz Animal Shelter, is quoted in the Manhattan Mercury saying the alligator spotted was the smaller of the two and does not pose a real threat to humans. However, reading between those lines means that the alligator still on the loose is a larger male.
June 14, 2020 – (the sad ending) The alligator is found dead in the trap. “Somehow” the trap which was chained to a tree and strapped to a log became dislodged and fell into the water causing the animal to drown.
Do you suspect foul play, because I do? I also really want to know what has happened to the larger male alligator. But seriously, let’s take a step back on this one. Two alligators are stolen, one somehow is released into the wild and is spotted in a creek by a passerby. The animal is trapped and then suspiciously the animal dies when the trap falls into the water.
Colin Cudley is quoted in the Manhattan Mercury as saying, “We’re still unclear as to how the trap got dislocated from where it was and fell into the water because there’s no way the alligator could have gotten it off on its own.” I am unclear as well. This just stinks of deliberate actions. But it doesn’t answer the other burning question:
Where is the other alligator?
It took the owners of the pet store weeks to capture the animal initially and they knew exactly where it was. Where it is now there are millions of places to hide. The store owner assured the public that the danger posed by the gator is little if any because they will run and hide from you. Without a sighting, there is no real way of knowing where the aloof alligator actually abides.
This whole thing doesn’t sit well with me, there is something ‘off’ about it. A person, or persons, steals two large alligators. Immediately following that they either lose control of one or deliberately release the smaller female. Some little voice in the back of my head is telling me that the male is still in the possession of the kidnappers, and the female escaped whatever hasty enclosure was set up for the pair.
Seriously, though, where is the second alligator?
If you steal an alligator you better already have a plan for where it goes when you get home. Or better yet, just don’t steal alligators.