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Surprise catch house-hunt

Young Norris gator looking for a home

Little Ponderosa Zoo Assistant Manager Abbie Bell is taking care of the now-famous Norris Lake juve- nile alligator, which was pulled out of the lake in Union County by a fisherman on Monday, March 18. (photo:G. Chambers Williams III )
From the end of a fisherman’s line at Norris Lake in Union County to a quiet yet comfy pen at Clinton’s Little Ponderosa Zoo & Rescue, a young alligator has had a stressful week.

The little gator – measuring under four feet long – is resting comfortably now at the zoo and has had some fresh chicken to eat, but otherwise has remained mostly docile, said Little Ponderosa Assistant Manager Abbie Bell.

Still unnamed, the juvenile gator was pulled out of the lake by an angler on Monday, March 18, and then turned over to Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency Officer Rick Roberts.

Roberts subsequently delivered the gator to Little Ponderosa, where it has been allowed to warm up and lounge around in relative peace since its arrival, Bell said.

Little Ponderosa is trying to find the gator a permanent home, however, because the zoo does not have any alligators in residence, and is not ready to add one to its collection of residents, she said.

“I’ve been on the phone looking for a home for it in Alabama, Mississippi, Georgia and Florida, and it’s looking like Florida might be where we’re going to have the best luck,” Bell said Friday.

“We don’t know its history, whether it was someone’s pet that got too big and they let it go, or what,” she said. “If it has been a pet, it might not be able to be released into the wild.”

For now, the little reptile with the big jaws is at least in a safe place.

“We’re keeping him warm,” Bell said. “He even has a little pool if he wants to get into the water.

“But he’s pretty stressed, so we’re mostly leaving him alone,” she said. “He has eaten a little bit of chicken, but alligators can eat as little as once a week.”

While photos of the gator taken shortly after it was caught show it to be rather docile, Little Ponderosa Manager Mary Lou Redmond said it began showing some spunk after it had been at the zoo for a little while.

“It was cold out at the lake, so it was pretty calm,” she said. “But once it got warmed up here, it showed a little more personality.”

Bell said the Little Ponderosa has never kept alligators, but once had a cayman, a similar type of reptile, which also came in as a rescue.

It was eventually sent to another location, she added.