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Authorities raid Hemet pot house, find 50-pound alligator

March 8, 2011 |  7:14 pm

Narcotics agents raiding a Hemet pot house made a surprise finding amid dozens of plants and seedlings: A 50-pound alligator.

The 4-foot-long gator had been living inside the home, where the owner had set up a cement tub with water so the reptile could get wet.

"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.

Almquist and his wife operate the nonprofit Forever Wild Exotic Animal Sanctuary in Phelan in San Bernardino County. The sanctuary is home to lions, tigers and, now, 15 alligators.

Although alligators are illegal in California, Almquist told The Times, the reptiles 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 and was on his way.

"I had to kind of push the plants to the side," he said, "and pick the gator up and boogie out of there."


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

-- Robert J. Lopez
Twitter: @LAJourno