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Gator Eludes Arkansas Cops, Game Officers

June 16, 2004

PRAIRIE GROVE, Ark. (AP) _ Mention alligators in Arkansas, and the slow-moving bayous of southern and eastern parts of the state come to mind. But a stock pond in the Ozarks is also harboring a young reptile with large teeth.

The alligator lives in a pond between Prairie Grove and the community of Lincoln, and apparently isn’t eager for a change of scenery. The beast eluded four anglers from the state Game and Fish Commission for the second straight day Tuesday.

The animal has been living in the farm pond for about a year and a half, said landowner L.M. Madden. He said he’s seen the alligator occasionally _ and noticed ducks or guinea fowl missing from the area _ but nobody else had seen the reptile until last weekend.

``I knew it was in there, and I told people, but nobody believed me,″ he said. ``They thought I was talking like an idiot.″

But after the alligator’s presence was confirmed over the weekend, Prairie Grove police contacted the Washington County animal control officer, who called the Game and Fish Commission, Madden said.

Somewhere along the way, news of the creature became generally known, and area residents stopped by in a steady stream Monday and Tuesday to see if the alligator had been caught.

``The alligator is about 4 feet long, and probably a juvenile,″ said Kevin Lynch, a commission biologist who was at the scene.

Madden thinks the alligator escaped or was set loose by someone in the area. Lynch agreed, saying that the only known captive alligator in the area was nearby and had been missing for about a year. Possession of an alligator is illegal in Arkansas.

Lynch’s team typically gets about one call a year to relocate unwanted alligators, but all have been in the Arkansas River valley, he said. This was their first trip to northwest Arkansas on such a call.

Madden said the reptile was only about 18 inches long when he first saw it, but that it had grown steadily with each sighting. He estimated the creature had eaten about 30 of his ducks and guinea fowl.

After it is caught, the alligator will probably be moved to a wildlife area near Petit Jean in central Arkansas, Lynch said.

Along with commission employee Brian Infield, Lynch used a stout fishing pole rigged with 80-pound line and a large treble hook in their attempts to snare the alligator Tuesday. By casting the line over a spot where they guessed the alligator was lying on the pond bottom, the two hoped to snag the creature and drag it close to shore.

The plan was to slip a muzzle of sorts _ similar to those used to catch dogs _ over the alligator’s snout. Lynch snagged the alligator on his first cast Monday, but it slipped free. About a dozen tries Tuesday were unsuccessful.

``We’re not going to give up on him,″ Infield said. ``We’ve got too much time invested. This is a personal challenge now.″

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