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Alligator Released Into Okefenokee Swamp After Trip From Boston

April 8, 1986

WAYCROSS, Ga. (AP) _ Dickens, a 5 1/2 -foot alligator that spent 20 months at a Boston museum after being rescued from an owner who wired its jaw shut, was released into the wild Monday at the Okefenokee Swamp.

The alligator slipped into the south Georgia swamp about 8 a.m. after a ride from Boston in the back of a station wagon.

John Schroer, manager of the Okefenokee refuge, said Dickens appeared to be in good shape. ″It took right off into the swamp.″

Dickens was brought to Georgia by David Gorrill, curator of Boston’s Museum of Science, which acquired the gator in 1984.

Dickens had arrived at the museum as an abused young alligator, its snout wrapped with wire and its scales damaged from malnutrition, said Paul Fontaine, who helps run a weekend class at the museum. He said the museum agreed not to press charges against Dickens’ owner in exchange for the alligator.

Dickens was named by high school volunteers who ″thought he just looked like a Dickens,″ Fontaine said. The alligator’s sex is undetermined because it has not yet reached maturity, he added.

Fontaine said museum officials are confident the alligator will adapt quickly to its new home, ″especially a protected swamp like that, with plenty of frogs to eat.″

Dickens was at least the third alligator from the Boston museum to be released in the swamp, he said, adding that rangers say the others are thriving.

Fontaine said it is not uncommon to find an alligator that has been abused in captivity.

″They’re not fuzzy and you can’t play with them. They don’t show a lot of affection - well, they do, but in a different way - so people lose interest in them,″ he said.

Dickens’ occasional hissing also likely scared its owner into clamping its mouth shut, Fontaine said, explaining that alligators hiss when their territory is threatened.

″He did that here for a while, too, but after he began eating fine, it was no problem,″ Fontaine said.

He said the museum decided to free Dickens because the alligator was getting too big to handle. Dickens measured about 2 1/2 feet from snout to tail when it came to the museum, but grew more than a foot a year on a diet of mice.

″Even though he was still gentle, he was pretty unwieldy,″ Fontaine said.

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