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No one knows why this 7-foot alligator showed up near Sacramento

Alligators are more commonly seen in Florida than in Northern California. | Bruce Bennett/Getty Images

In places like Florida, an alligator sighting is a near-daily occurrence. But in the American River outside suburban Sacramento, they’re decidedly rarer.

A fisherman in the city of Fair Oaks reported a 7-foot gator, and his friend captured it and turned it over to the Wildlife Care Association, the Sacramento Bee reported. That organization was unprepared for dealing with a massive reptile, even one with its mouth duct-taped shut. So it alerted the California Department of Fish and Wildlife, and the agency accepted it.

In the wild, American alligators are typically only found east of Texas. Cold-blooded reptiles can survive in relatively chilly water, although their metabolism may slow considerably. This particular alligator was found to be in very poor health, however, and it died within hours.

Officials don’t know where the gator came from, suspecting someone had been keeping it as a pet until it grew too large to care for. As alligators are dangerous wildlife, possessing one is illegal outside of zoos or research facilities under California law.

The American River is short, running from the Sierra Nevada to Downtown Sacramento. As such, it contains a lot of snowmelt, further surprising residents who associate such creatures with warmer climates. 

Astrid Kane can be reached at

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