Gator found in Shirley is 5th abandoned on LI

This 3-foot alligator was found in a plastic

This 3-foot alligator was found in a plastic tub early Sunday outside an Applebee's restaurant in a Shirley shopping mall at Montauk Highway and William Floyd Parkway, Suffolk County police said. This is the fifth alligator found abandoned on Long Island in nine days. (Oct. 7, 2012) (Credit: Stringer News Service)

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The number of alligators abandoned on Long Island grew by one after a fifth was found early Sunday in Shirley, Suffolk police said.

The 3-foot reptile was found in a plastic container outside the Applebee's restaurant at Montauk Highway and William Floyd Parkway about 2 a.m., police said.

It was the fifth gator found abandoned on Long Island in 10 days. The first was found Sept. 28 in the lawn of a Mastic Beach residence. On Oct. 1, another was found in a Wading River golf course, and two more were found in a Baldwin supermarket parking lot on Tuesday and Wednesday. Each of the gators was 3 feet or smaller.

Suffolk County SPCA Chief Roy Gross said he has never seen so many alligators being found in such a short period of time.

The last time the SPCA dealt with so many exotic animals was in 2006, when police arrested a Lindenhurst man who had alligators, turtles, eels, emus and other animals in his house.

Gross said alligators grow about a foot a year and can reach up to 18 feet long. The one found in Shirley was probably about 2 years old, he said.

The SPCA said is offering a $2,000 reward for information leading to the arrest and conviction of those responsible for abandoning the alligator in the Shirley shopping center parking lot.

"These are dangerous creatures," Gross said. "They can also spread diseases."

Gross said the organization is offering the reward in the most recent case because the animal was intentionally left right outside a restaurant, "where people and children are present to go into the stores and the eating establishment," Gross said.

"This is really putting people in danger," he said.

Gross blamed the Internet for making it easy for people to sell and buy such wild animals.

"I think people are just buying these animals because they think it's cool," he said. "But then they realize the baby alligators will grow and can be dangerous or won't fit in their tank." That is when people "decide to dump them."

The gator found in Shirley was immediately taken to the Selden Animal Hospital, police said. The Suffolk SPCA said alligators cannot survive in cold weather.

The reptile has been taken to an undisclosed wildlife rehabilitation center, according to the Selden Animal Hospital. Information on its condition was not available Sunday.

Gross said the person responsible for releasing the reptile in the parking lot could face criminal charges for animal abandonment and endangerment to the public health. Wild animal possession is a violation, Gross said, not a crime.

Gross said he does not believe all five gators were released by the same person. He said anyone with information about any of the cases can call 631-382-SPCA.

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