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SPOTLIGHT
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Hutchinson has hands full with alligators, pythons

Published on -9/30/2013, 7:19 AM

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HUTCHINSON, Kan. (AP) -- It's illegal to own an alligator or python in Hutchinson, but that hasn't kept the city from being forced to deal with a number of exotic animal encounters over the past couple of months.

The most recent was a 5-foot-long alligator found in a wooden crate in a garage last week by investigators looking into leads in a separate criminal case, The Hutchinson News (http://bit.ly/16IYD8Q) reported.

Officers entered the unsecured garage and found the reptile, which posed a significant public safety issue, said police Capt. Troy Hoover.

"The alligator was large enough it could have seriously injured an adult," he said.

Earlier this month, a 2-foot-long alligator that was found in a box in the city became the first one Hutchinson Animal Services Director Richard Havens had ever handled.

That alligator, nicknamed Boots, was taken Friday morning to Monkey Island, a nonprofit animal rescue in southwest Missouri.

Havens also was involved with a 4-foot-long ball python that was found July 30 on a porch of a home, and about a month later a dead ball python that was found after being struck by a vehicle.

"The best thing that we can hope for is that it stops, but you never know," Havens said.

A person who released his or her exotic animal collection could be the reason for the four recent occurrences, Havens said, though it also could be random. Thanks to the Internet, it's quite easy for the exotic animal trade to flourish everywhere, he said.

"As long as you've got a highway, there are animals passing through," he said.

Most exotic animals wouldn't be able to survive on their own in the Kansas climate, Havens said, but many pose a threat to the public and so it's important to get them off the streets.

Since neither Hoover nor his officers have much experience handling alligators, they called in Jeff Wells, who is with a Hutchinson termite and pest control company, to help remove the creature. Using capture poles and a tank, police officers and Wells managed to get the alligator to the Hutchinson Zoo, where it is being held for now.

"As far as strange goes, it tipped the meter," said Wells. "It was definitely exciting."

The surviving ball python was to stay at the Hutchinson Animal Shelter for educational purposes.

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