A Gator on the Loose in Southern California

A net has been strung across the Harbor City lake to help corner the rogue alligator. i i

A net has been strung across the Harbor City lake to help corner the rogue alligator. Mandalit del Barco, NPR hide caption

itoggle caption Mandalit del Barco, NPR
A net has been strung across the Harbor City lake to help corner the rogue alligator.

A net has been strung across the Harbor City lake to help corner the rogue alligator.

Mandalit del Barco, NPR
A novelty t-shirt teases those trying to catch the alligator.

A novelty t-shirt teases those trying to catch the alligator. Mandalit del Barco, NPR hide caption

itoggle caption Mandalit del Barco, NPR
From left: Gatorworld reptile wranglers Tim Williams and Flavio Morrisey

From left: Gatorworld reptile wranglers Tim Williams -- the "dean of animal wrestlers -- and Flavio Morrisey. Mandalit del Barco, NPR hide caption

itoggle caption Mandalit del Barco, NPR

For the past several weeks, an alligator has taken up residence in a lake in a park in Harbor City, a small oasis of green surrounded by industrial parks, freeways and office buildings in south Los Angeles County.

How did the animal get there? It began as a mystery — the working theory was that a pet got too big for its owner and was dumped into the lake.

The truth, it turns out, adds to the mystery. Two men, one of them a former Los Angeles police officer, have been arrested on felony charges for dumping what's believed to be a six-foot, 150-pound alligator into Lake Machado.

Arresting officers found a whole reptile habitat at the former cop's suburban home, including three other alligators, desert tortoises and a rattlesnake, plus piranhas and six marijuana plants.

Attempts to catch the alligator have created a sensation. Hordes of people have come to get a glimpse of the creature, scanning the shoreline from behind police tape.

The power boats, bright lights and the commotion of the search so far may have spooked the big reptile into hiding.

If the fugitive gator is caught, plans are to find a new home at a reptile theme park in Florida called Gatorland, or maybe at the L.A. Zoo. A team of experts from the theme park continue to troll the waters of Lake Machado, hoping to lure the gator out of hiding, and into their nets.

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