Subscribe for 99¢

You just found a baby alligator in your front yard. What do you do?

Poke it with a broom handle, of course.

That was the response of Melinda Thomas, 39, and her husband after coming face-to-face with a gator last week outside of their Dutchtown home in south St. Louis.

Thomas said the creature was spotted by a neighbor around 7 p.m Wednesday in the 3500 block of Kingsland Court. The neighbor shouted, “Oh my god, it’s a gator!” and Thomas ventured to the sidewalk to see what she said was about a 3-foot-long baby alligator.

Her husband decided to give it a poke with a broomstick to make sure it was real. It was.

They called animal control, which came out and captured the animal that same night.

The gator got a free trip to the city shelter until Tuesday, when it was moved to the Exotic Amphibian and Reptile Center in Lemay, said Harold Bailey, public information officer for the St. Louis Department of Health. While alligators are a rarity for animal control, he said, this one was not a first.

Most likely, the gator was abandoned by someone who tried keeping it as a pet, Bailey said. That’s illegal in the city.

And before a person tries to adopt an exotic pet, they should learn the laws about what is and is not allowed.

Bailey added that people should always contact animal control when dealing with exotic or wild animals. Never try to capture them yourself.

Thomas said although she wasn’t afraid of the animal, she hopes other gators aren’t lurking when she’s gardening or walking the dog. Otherwise, she’ll be fine.

“Living in the city, nothing really surprises me anymore,” Thomas said.

3 O'Clock Stir e-newsletter

* I understand and agree that registration on or use of this site constitutes agreement to its user agreement and privacy policy.