(Kennett, MO) It’s a “’gator” roundup, but not in Florida, where you might expect.
Try Kennett, Missouri.
Local authorities are concerned about close to fifty baby alligators purchased form an exotic animal salesman more than a year ago.
Now, some of those babies are more than three feet long, and police want to stop the growing problem, before it comes back to bite them later.
“He said he's seen them out in the ditch. But I ain't never seen them,” said Larry Smotherman of Kennett.
He can count himself lucky.
One look at pictures of these alligators, and it’s easy to understand why police want to nip it in the bud.
“When they were sold, they were probably, I would say probably four to six inches long. Maybe smaller than that,” Kennett Police Patrolman Alan Campbell told me.
Just a few weeks ago, Patrolman Alan Campbell struggled to hold on to one of the big reptiles.
The “Alligator Man,” the local nickname of the man who sold the baby alligators around Kennett, never had a license to sell exotic animals. Making matters worse, it’s against the law to even own one in Kennett.
Police have given the alligator owners amnesty to turn the reptiles in to authorities.
“When people get tired of them or become afraid of them, we're just afraid they will just let them go or take them out somewhere to a lake somewhere and release them. And that's not the thing to do,” said Campbell.
Lora Tate owns “Doggie Do’s Dog Grooming” in Kennett.
She’s seen how the alligators have grown, and she believes a small child or dog would be easy prey.
“I would be concerned. Because, you know, their alligator jaws are pretty powerful, their teeth are very sharp. And yeah!”
Police say any alligator that survived the winter may become more active as the temperature rises.
While the people of Kennett hope to take advantage of those rising temperatures this spring, Ralph Hemann says he’ll be a lot more cautious while on his bicycle.
“I think I'll ride more in the middle of the road, instead of the side, to be sure to be on the safe side.”