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50-pound alligator found at Hemet pot-growing house has new home

March 9, 2011 |  7:21 am

A 50-pound alligator found by narcotics agents while raiding a Hemet pot house now has a new home: the Forever Wild Exotic Animal Sanctuary in Phelan.

Video shows the alligator apparently enjoying his new digs.

"He wasn't aggressive at all. ... This guy was just very, very mellow," said Joel Almquist, who was summoned Monday night by authorities to take the alligator to his animal sanctuary.

Narcotics agents raiding the pot house made the surprise finding amid dozens of plants and seedlings. The 4-foot-long gator had been living inside the home, where the owner had set up a concrete tub with water so the reptile could stay wet.

Although privately owned alligators are illegal in California, Almquist told The Times, they are popular pets. He said he has recovered about 70 alligators in the last four years.

The animal in Hemet was an American alligator, which are found across the Southeast.

Almquist said he taped the animal's mouth shut for the trip back to the sanctuary. "I had to kind of push the plants to the side," he said, "and pick the gator up and boogie out of there."


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-- Robert J. Lopez
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