A small but feisty alligator found in a window well of a Southampton home has added to a troubling trend of abandoned alligators on Long Island in recent months.
"It probably fell in or was trying to seek warmth," Gross said.
The alarmed resident threw a blanket over the cold-blooded animal in an attempt to keep it warm in the chilly weather, then called the Suffolk County Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, Gross said.
The nonprofit Save the Animals Rescue Foundation retrieved the alligator, which is recovering at the group's Middle Island facility.
Gross said the alligator wasn't lethargic, so he suspects it wasn't out in the cold for very long. But a Long Island winter would be a "death sentence" for such a creature, he said.
"They cannot survive in cold weather for any period of time," he said.
Gross said the alligator is the ninth discovered on Long Island since September, and the eighth found by his group. An additional alligator was found by another group in Suffolk County. "And that's only what we know of," he said.
Lori Ketcham, a director at the animal-rescue foundation, said the young alligator was healthy and basking under a heat lamp Sunday.
After a veterinarian checks him, he and the other alligators the foundation is caring for will be sent to a warm-weather sanctuary.
Owning such animals without a permit is illegal in New York State, Gross said, and the person who released the alligator could face charges of animal cruelty, abandonment and endangering the public.
A better option than abandoning the animals would be surrendering them to the state Department of Environmental Conservation, Gross said.
Alligators have been found in various places on Long Island recently, with the first captured Sept. 28 in Mastic Beach.
"We don't know why this is happening," said Gross, whose agency is focused now on providing pet food and supplies to areas devastated by Sandy.
Anyone with information about this case can call the Suffolk SPCA at 631-382-7722.