The life of an East Bay alligator was brought to an untimely end yesterday morning after wildlife officials shot and killed the creature as it sunned on a rock. NBC Bay Area reports that the four-foot reptile was chilling in a Fremont creek, near Niles, when a California Department of Fish and Wildlife warden used a state-issued riffle to dispatch the gator.
The death brought to conclusion a 24-hour search by Alameda County sheriff’s deputies following an alligator sighting near the Alameda Creek Regional Trail early Monday morning.
"When it's a pubic safety issue we don't want to take a chance of losing it," Captain Sheree Christensen of Fish and Wildlife told the channel. "It's very difficult to tranquilize an alligator from a distance. A lot of people hike in this area, and they are not expecting an alligator to be there."
Indeed, the question of what the alligator was doing in the East Bay creek in the first place is still an open one. “It’s just strange,” one area mountain biker, Garrett Peardon, told the Chronicle. “An alligator in Fremont? This is not Florida.”
Officials say it was likely an illegal pet, and they guess the owner released it after he or she realized the animal was too much to care for. This specific alligator was determined to be an American Alligator, the East Bay Times reports, and can grow between 8.2 and 11.2 feet long depending on the sex.
"You really limit our decision-making when you put it out into the wild, you handcuff the agency of what we can do," Fish and Wildlife spokesman Steve Gonzalez told the Times. "What we want to communicate to the public is this didn't have to happen. No one wanted this outcome but in the end it's about public safety for us."