PARKERSBURG - Oh Troy Landry where at thou?
The alligator-hunting star of the television show "Swamp People" would have been right at home in Parkersburg Monday morning, as officials worked to capture a 5-foot alligator on Quincy Hill.
"It's not something we are used to dealing with," said a member of the Parkersburg Police Department. Similar quotes were also uttered by members of the fire department and the West Virginia Division of Natural Resources who found themselves confronted with trying to capture an alligator.
Maryann Hollis, executive director of the Parkersburg Humane Society, and Parkersburg police Chief Joe Martin both said officials received calls on Saturday regarding a missing alligator.
The missing gator was discovered shortly after 9 a.m. Monday. Olivia Hefner was driving up Quincy Hill to pick up her fiance when she spotted the reptile in the street.
"He ambled out in front of me," Hefner said.
Photo by Jody Murphy
Officials place the alligator in a truck for transport off Quincy Hill to a shelter.
Stunned at the sight, Hefner said she pulled over, forgetting to put her car in park. Once she got her car stopped she went to a neighbor's house to have someone verify what she was seeing.
"She, reasonably, called the police," Hefner said.
The 911 call of a 4-foot gator quickly drew the attention of police and fire personnel. By the time officers arrived the gator, which was closer to five feet, was snuggled up against the front porch of 1002 Quincy St., under some bushes.
Just The Facts
The alligator's owner has a permit for the reptile.
City officials said there is no code on the books preventing ownership of a pet alligator.
The alligator was discovered shortly after 9 a.m. Monday after being reported as missing on Saturday.
Firefighters and police, including a West Virginia State trooper and the members of the DNR, converged, discussing the best way to capture the gator. In the end Dianne Modesitt, a humane officer with the Humane Society of Parkersburg, had no trouble putting a catch pole loop around the gator so firefighters could subdue it.
Hollis said the society's catch pole is built for some very big dogs.
"It is built for some long range acquisition of animals," she said.
Once the gator was subdued, more than a half dozen firefighters converged on the animal, covering it with a coat and taping its mouth shut and its legs together with duct and electrical tape.
The gator, its jaws still locked around the catch pole, was loaded into the back of the humane officer's truck and taken to the shelter.
Officials later identified the gator's owner as Rick Barker, who lives on the 800 block of Swann Street, according to Martin.
DNR Sgt. Clyde Armstead said there is nothing illegal about owning an alligator.
"As long as it was bought legally," he said.
Hollis said Barker attempted to claim the gator late Monday morning, but DNR officials asked the society not to release it.
"He had to prove he had a permit, which he has," Hollis said.
Officials were still reviewing if possession of the gator violated any laws. Martin said there is a city ordinance prohibiting undesirable animals but described it as vague.
Code Enforcement Director Gary Moss said he spoke with City Attorney Joe Santer.
"We went through the code and there isn't any code restricting that type of animal," Moss said.
Moss said code and health department officials will inspect the alligator's habitat. Moss said the gator's owners are in the process of building a larger, bigger, stronger cage. "From the code side we don't have anything that mentions this type of animal. There is nothing that says 'Thou shall not.'"
In 2007, firefighters rescued a small alligator from a duplex fire at 803 Quincy St. The duplex was owned by George Ross. The alligator was discovered in a attic apartment and given to one of Ross' relatives. The apartment's owners were not home at the time of the fire and were not identified in newspaper accounts of the fire.