An alligator discovered in poor condition has been removed from a Pennsylvania creek after reportedly being discovered by a landscaper working nearby.
The landscaper came across the small alligator in the water in Exeter, Matthew Pachuilo, multimedia specialist for the Animal Rescue League of Berks County (ARL), told Fox News Digital.
The landscaper had apparently contacted officers at the Exeter Police Department, who then reached out to a team at ARL to help care for the alligator while they searched for the female reptile’s owner.
“The rumors are true; there was an alligator found in Exeter Township. We have partnered with the ARL and the animal is safe and in custody,” the Exeter Township Police Department shared on Facebook.
While the reptile was in the care of the ARL, Rudy Arceo, CEO and founder of the Venom Institute within the Keystone Herpetology Institute in Ranshaw, Pennsylvania, was brought in to identify the needs and health of the alligator, later identified as “Fluffy.”
Arceo has worked with the ARL as the “reptile expert” on call. When he arrived, he was expecting this to be like any other alligator case he has worked on in the past.
“When I got there and walked into the room where they had the animal held at, I was in complete shock,” Arceo told Fox News Digital.
“In all the years I’ve been doing this, I’ve not seen an alligator this bad before,” he added.
The reptile had what Arceo referred to as “duck lips,” where the snout had an upward curvature and the teeth were horizontal.
The alligator was in such poor health people questioned if Fluffy was an American alligator because its head structure did not look normal, Arceo said.
Fluffy was incredibly “malnourished,” Arceo said, adding that he found her body’s condition to be “sunken in” and “high ridge of the spine and thin in appearance all together.”
Once the owner had been identified, Arceo learned more about where Fluffy had been living in for 10 years.
“It [Fluffy] was kept in a 75-gallon aquarium, and the guy had it since it was a hatchling,” Arceo stated.
Fluffy should have been between 8 or 10 feet, but due to the lack of space in its aquarium, she was only 2½ feet long.
Fluffy’s owner thought alligators grew to the size of their enclosures, but Arceo said that is one of the biggest misconceptions he hears.
“Their growth is stunted, and it causes a lot of serious health issues,” Arceo said.
Arceo did not feel comfortable releasing the animal back into the care of its owner, though he requested that Fluffy be taken to the vet, the owner change its enclosure and the reptile be fed by hand because it is unable to eat properly.
There is an ongoing investigation to make sure Fluffy is taken care of properly and will be regularly checked on now that the animal is back with the owner, Arceo shared.
“I’m not letting this go [because] that is an animal in a horrible condition. Probably the worst I’ve ever seen,” he added.
It is believed Fluffy escaped its enclosure after a flash flood that hit the Exeter area several weeks ago, Pachuilo said.
Fluffy’s enclosure rested on a wooden platform atop a preformed pond, but the structure had been built on an angle, and the owner used rocks to evenly balance out the aquarium, according to Arceo.
The floodwaters came and wiped out the rocks and brick, which caused the structure to lose its balance, releasing the alligator from its enclosure, Arceo explained.
“Officers from the Animal Rescue League of Berks County’s Department of Animal Protection remain in contact with Fluffy’s owner, providing wellness checks to monitor her condition and ensure that she is receiving the required care per veterinarian orders,” Pachuilo stated.
Arceo said he plans on reaching out to the owner of Fluffy soon to make sure the reptile’s health continues to improve.
“Every time I look at that picture of the animal, I think, ‘I wish I could have it with me,’” Arceo added.
Arceo said people should not own alligators.
Most people do not have the necessary indoor and eventual outdoor space required to humanely keep and care for an alligator because it will continue to grow, Arceo noted.
Arceo said anyone no longer in a position to care for a reptile of this size should research rescues in their area and bring the animal to a reputable establishment.