A nearly 8-foot alligator that allegedly was taken from a Texas zoo nearly 20 years ago as an egg or a hatchling has been returned to the facility after it was spotted living illegally in the backyard of a home near Austin, officials say.
Investigators were at a property in rural Caldwell County for a separate incident when they saw the alligator in a pen, Texas Game Wardens spokesperson Jen Shugert said Monday.
A woman at the property told investigators she had taken an alligator egg nearly 20 years ago when she was volunteering with a zoo, according to Shugert.
“Although there was a habitat in the backyard for the alligator, it had outgrown its pen because it was nearly 8 feet long,” Shugert said.
Once wildlife officials discovered the woman couldn’t meet the requirements for proper permits to keep the alligator, a crew went to the property, captured the gator and brought it to Animal World & Snake Farm Zoo, her original home, according to the zoo.
The zoo – located in New Braunfels, less than 30 miles northeast of San Antonio – posted a video Friday of the big reptile being carried from a truck, through the facility and into an enclosure with other gators.
“We got a call from Texas Parks and Wildlife Department about an alligator that someone apparently has had in their possession for over 20 years now,” a zoo employee says in the video.
“Evidently, they were volunteering here actually, at Animal World & Snake Farm, way back then,” and apparently took the alligator, either as an egg or a hatchling, “and actually kept this thing as a pet for at least 20 years now,” he adds.
The alligator will now live out the rest of her life at the zoo, the employee says in the video.
The woman was cited with two misdemeanors: illegal possession of an alligator egg and possession of an alligator without the proper permits, Shugert said. Each carries up to $500 in fines.
“Alligators don’t make good pets, y’all,” the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department said in an Instagram post Friday about the reptile’s relocation to the zoo.