PHOENIX - An alligator was rescued after it was discovered Saturday night in the front yard of a northwest Phoenix house.
"They saw something running across the lawn and thought it was a monitor lizard and lo and behold - it was an alligator," said Nick Burge, vice president of the Arizona Herpetological Association, the group that originally rescued the animal.
Burge arrived at the house after receiving a call around 10:30 p.m. Saturday that an alligator was roving in someone's lawn. Burge found the 2-foot-long reptile lying under the waterfall from a sprinkler.
Burge said the alligator might have chosen to camp out in this particular lawn near 75th Avenue and Camelback Road because "he was probably attracted to the sprinkler."
Burge, with help from another member of the herpetological association, captured the alligator by draping a towel across its mouth.
Despite being dehydrated and on the thin side, the alligator "had plenty of energy when we got him, believe me," Burge said.
The alligator was placed in the care of the Phoenix Herpetological Society, a rescue group that takes in reptiles and amphibians.
Debbie Gibson of the Phoenix Herpetological Society said the alligator would be placed in quarantine and put on a feeding regimen until it was healthy enough to be placed with the group's six other juvenile alligators.
Gibson said she guessed based on the alligator's size - they grow about a foot a year - that the young reptile was between two and three years old.
Gibson said the alligator was probably a pet that someone let lose.
"They're illegal here (in Arizona) so somebody probably found out and let him go," Gibson said. "We don't know how long he was running around in the heat."
He said an alligator's hardy nature probably helped it survive.
"Alligators are one of few types of animals that have been around before dinosaurs," said Burge, who teaches high school biology. "They're highly adaptable."
Both Burge and Gibson said receiving a phone call about an alligator on the loose was unusual.
Gibson said she hoped people who no longer want their illegal or exotic reptiles or amphibians would call the Phoenix Herpetological Society rather than letting them loose. People can turn in their pets with no questions asked, Gibson said.