A 3-foot alligator found roaming the parking lot of a local Mexican restaurant was initially going to be released into a wildland habitat, but state wildlife officials decided to euthanize the gator Thursday afternoon fearing it could spread disease to native populations. The reptile will now be used for education and conservation programs.


A 3-foot alligator found roaming the parking lot of a local Mexican restaurant was initially going to be released into a wildland habitat, but state wildlife officials decided to euthanize the gator Thursday afternoon fearing it could spread disease to native populations. The reptile will now be used for education and conservation programs.
Nels Rodefeld, chief of information and education at the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife, said they determined the alligator is possibly a Caiman, a South American breed that is often sold in the pet trade. They look identical to the American alligator, which is prevalent in the southeastern United States, with a healthy population reaching into southeastern Oklahoma and along the Red River.
“It’s possible it’s an American alligator and it is also possible it is Caiman,” Rodefeld said. “At a smaller sizes, they’re hard to differentiate.”
The American alligator is a protected species in Oklahoma and are illegal to own without a license, he said, while the Caiman variety is often captive animals.
Rodefeld said they didn’t know this particular gator’s history and didn’t want to take a chance on it spreading disease to other wildlife.
“We had no information on disease, history or genetics,” he said, adding decisions in situations like this are on a case-by-case basis.
The alligator was found Tuesday in the parking lot behind Abuelita’s Mexican Restaurant in the 1900 block of North Harrison. Shawnee police and animal control officers responded to the scene and captured the reptile.
Officials believed the gator was someone’s pet and possibly came from a nearby apartment complex. The alligator was taken to the Shawnee Animal Shelter to await pick up from the Pottawatomie County game warden.
Initially, the game warden, Mike France, said he planned to pick up the reptile and take it to a wildland management area in southeastern Oklahoma where it could live in its natural habitat.
But Thursday afternoon, state wildlife officials made the decision to euthanize.
———
Kim Morava may be reached at 214-3962 or kimberly.morava@news-star.com.