April 13, 2011 / 11:42 PM / 9 years ago

Nine-foot alligator loose in Arkansas

LITTLE ROCK, Arkansas (Reuters) - Maybe it was spring fever that made a 9-foot, 20-year-old alligator make its getaway in south Arkansas.

The male American alligator was found missing on Tuesday afternoon at the Gov. Mike Huckabee Delta Rivers Nature Center in Pine Bluff, about 45 miles south of Little Rock.

“We think he crawled up on a chain link fence, got his weight on it and pushed it down enough to get over it,” Arkansas Game and Fish Commission spokesman Keith Stephens said in an interview. “He got to the next fence and was able to get under a gate.”

The nature center sits near the Arkansas River and on the edge of swamps and bayous. The alligator was in an outdoor display near the back of the nature center’s main building.

Stephens said he believes the alligator is now in the nearby swamps mingling with other alligators that live in the water.

Game and Fish officials searched around the center and under the building, which is on stilts.

So far, the alligator has not been found.

The animal had been in captivity just under a year after it was caught near the center as it crossed a road, Stephens said.

The alligator, one of the center’s most popular exhibits, was not implanted with a microchip for tracking purposes.

“We want to keep the center as natural as possible so we didn’t have any tracking devices on him,” he said. “We were always aware that this was not a pet alligator. Some people will feed alligators and think they are pets. He was a wild animal.”

There were no other large alligators at the center or any of the other three nature centers in the state, Stephens said, but some smaller ones lived in aquariums.

Alligators are native to the southern part of the state, Stephens said. When warmer weather arrives, alligators begin basking in the sun and feeding.

“We think it is probably gone to where it was before he was captured,” Stephens said. “The chance of finding it is probably pretty slim.”

Earlier this month, an Egyptian cobra escaped from the Bronx Zoo. Someone posing as the snake created a Twitter account to document the snake’s adventures in New York.

By late Wednesday, three Twitter accounts had already been started for the missing alligator, including one called “Gator on the Run.”

Editing by Corrie MacLaggan and Peter Bohan

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