LACONIA — A local man and his pet pooch had a close encounter of a different kind one recent Friday night when they went for a walk and saw an alligator resting on an Elm Street sidewalk.
The man, who asked not to be identified, said his dog started acting a little skittish so he knew the dog heard or smelled something. He saw the alligator seconds later.
"It was lying on the sidewalk," he said, describing it as a two-foot "crocodile" that ran into a neighboring property when it noticed he and the dog.
The man said he called the Laconia Police.
Lt. Rich Simmons said yesterday that on August 16 at 9:25 p.m. police were notified about a 2-to-3 foot alligator near the corner of Jefferson and Elm Streets.
Two officers responded and the supervisor called Lt. Mike Eastman of the N.H. Department of Fish and Game and learned the alligator belongs to one of the few licensed alligators owners in the state.
Simmons said Eastman told his officers where the alligator's owner lived and the man's two teenaged daughters came and picked up the gator and carried it home.
A lieutenant with the N.H. Fish and Game Department said owning alligators has been illegal in New Hampshire since 2007, however the people who owned one before the law went into effect can keep them under the grandfather clause.
She also said it is rare but not unheard of for alligators to escape captivity and she personally recalled one incident where someone had released an alligator into the wild and Fish and Game officers brought it to Plaistow for shelter.
Kevin McCurley of New England Reptile Distributors in Plaistow said alligators cannot survive in New Hampshire unless they are kept in a controlled environment.
McCurley said there are about a dozen alligators owned legally in the state and all of them are bred in captivity and quite docile. Kept in a controlled environment, he said alligators can be kept small by regulating their habitat and diet.
He said the biggest alligator he owns is close to 200 pounds and he has had her for years. He recalled a man in Indiana who does exhibits with his alligator named "Bubba."
"You can't equate these to the 12-foot alligators in Florida you see on television," McCurley said, adding alligators sold by legitimate sellers are never taken out of the wild.
"Once the temperature gets to about 40 degrees they'll die," McCurley said. "That alligator was probably terrified."
He said he does rescue work for the state Department of Fish and Game and through his network is typically able to find safe and secure homes for the occasional alligator whose former owner decided it was too much work and released it to fend for itself.
He said the irresponsible people are the ones who get an alligator unlawfully, get sick of it, and let it go into the wild. He likened it to someone getting a large-breed dog and then dumping it when it becomes too big for the apartment.