05/03/14 10:00am
05/03/2014 10:00 AM
These four gators were captured in the Peconic River in April 2013. (Credit: DEC courtesy, file)

These four gators were captured in the Peconic River in April 2013. (Credit: DEC courtesy, file)

Perhaps hoping to curb a recent trend of abandoning alligators on Long Island, authorities announced this week a first-ever “amnesty day” in Suffolk County for those who illegally own exotic animals.

“People who are in possession of these animals unlawfully can turn them in to us without fear of prosecution,” said Suffolk SPCA chief Roy Gross, whose group is hosting the May 10 event with the state Department of Environmental Conservation and U.S Department of Agriculture. “No one will be asked to give their name.”

The announcement comes about a year after state Department of Environmental Conservation officers found five alligators in the Peconic River — one of which they shot —  and several others in areas elsewhere on Long Island.

In 2012, authorities recovered nine alligators over a span of just a few weeks in Suffolk County alone.

The event will be held from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. at the Town of Brookhaven Wildlife and Ecology Center at 249 Buckley Road in Holtsville.

Read more on alligators being found in Suffolk County.

Trained handlers will be on hand to accept the animals  from the public, officials said.

“The purpose of this effort is to get these illegally possessed animals into a controlled environment where they can be cared for properly,” Mr. Gross said.

mwhite@timesreview.com

06/14/13 5:29pm
06/14/2013 5:29 PM

TIM GANNON PHOTO | DEC officer Don Damrath shows some DEC employees where he thinks the gator may be.

An elusive alligator remained on the loose Friday in Calverton as State Environmental Conservation Officers converged on the area to attempt to bait the gator.

Spotted in the Peconic River near the state boat ramp on Connecticut Avenue, the gator is estimated to be about 3 1/2 to 4 feet long, officer Donald Damrath said.

It’s the second time in less than two months a gator has been spotted in the area. Four baby gators were found in the same spot in mid-April.

Mr. Damrath spotted the gator Wednesday and another man photographed it earlier in the week. Officer Kaitlyn Grady and Lt. Frank Carbone assisted Friday in trying to lure in the gator near the ramp where a trail leading to it has been closed to the public since Wednesday. Officials believe the gator is likely still near the boat ramp.

Mr. Damrath said the gator may be dormant. Gators become dormant when temperatures reach 55 degrees and stop feeding when the temperature is about 70 degrees, he said.

The air temperature was near 70 degrees Friday but the water temperature was unknown. The gators will stay on land if it is warmer than the water, Mr. Damrath said.

The officers put some chicken down by the ramp  in an attempt to bait the gator. Mr. Damrath said the gator was likely domestic, so the trap might not work.

It’s possible that this gator was owned by the same person that owned the other four, he said.

The goal is to catch it alive if possible, he said, but cautioned, “It’s a dangerous animal.”

tgannon@timesreview.com

TIM GANNON PHOTO | The hunt for the gator continues Friday.

10/04/12 5:20pm
10/04/2012 5:20 PM

PAUL SQUIRE PHOTO | Held here by aquarist Julian Ansell, “Golf Course” became the first alligator found in the wild in Riverhead when he was found in Wading River Monday. Officials believe he was an illegal pet that was released into the wild.

Riverhead Town animal control officer Jessica Eibs-Stankaitis got the call Monday from police about a wild animal lurking in a pond at a Wading River golf course.

But when she arrived at the scene, Ms. Eibs-Stankaitis was surprised by what she was going have to catch.

“I was a little shocked to see it was an alligator,” she joked. “It was actually kind of a cute alligator.”

PAUL SQUIRE PHOTO | Though only 30 inches long and three years old, a gator of Golf Course’s size could still bite off a person’s finger in the right circumstances.

The 24- to 30-inch-long reptile was found in a foot-deep shallow runoff pond at the Great Rock Golf Club.

The animal, later determined to be a young American alligator about three years old, was the first of three gators found on Long Island in three days, with the other two being found Tuesday and Wednesday in Nassau County.

It’s illegal for residents to own an alligator in New York State.

Both Ms. Eibs-Stankaitis and Long Island Aquarium officials warned that owning exotics pets like an alligator poses dangers not just to the owners and their families, but also the community.

“It’s a wild animal, it cannot be domesticated,” Ms. Eibs-Stankaitis said. “It’s an animal of opportunity when it needs to eat.”

Ms. Eibs-Stankaitis said it was the first time she’d ever seen a gator in these parts.

Alligators can grow to be up to 14 feet long in the Everglades, Ms. Eibs-Stankaitis said, though she added the reptiles would not be able to survive the winters in the Northeast.

After the alligator was caught with a catch pole and had its snout taped shut, the live animal was brought to the Long Island Aquarium to be held and cared for by specialists.

“I can only assume it was someone’s pet, and they probably thought releasing it was the humane thing to do,” she said.

Long Island Aquarium aquarist Julian Ansell agreed, noting that the gator – dubbed “Golf Course” by workers at the aquarium until they could come up with a better name – was surprisingly tolerant when being handled.

Aquarium officials have not yet determined whether Golf Course, an protected species known as the American alligator, is a male or female.

Mr. Ansell said Golf Course seemed to be in good health, unlike another gator that was seized by the state Department of Environmental Conservation.

“He’s a little underweight but otherwise he seems pretty healthy,” Mr. Ansell said.

Golf Course was the first gator discovered in the wild near Riverhead, he added. For the next three or so years, Golf Course will be kept at the aquarium with the other two gators and a fourth alligator rescued by a television show.

He will be used to teach children about reptiles and will eventually be sent to a zoo, aquarium or alligator farm in the South when he becomes too large to be reliably handled.

Mr. Ansell said alligators are sometimes taken as pets because they appear cute when they are smaller. But they can quickly grow to be strong and, even at Golf Course’s age, can take off a person’s finger.

“They’re always going to be dangerous,” Mr. Ansell said, adding that even pets like iguanas and snakes can be dangerous if not properly cared for.

He advised that families looking to purchase a pet, be it a dog, cat, fish or lizard, make sure they do they do their research first.

“People don’t realize what they’re getting into until it’s too late,” he said.

psquire@timesreview.com