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Alligator captured in Kiski River becomes animal ambassador for rescue site


By Kelly Sasso

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    PITTSBURGH (WTAE) — He’s the alligator captured in the Kiski River by a couple of kayakers after a week-long search. Now, Chomper the gator is bringing in new attention to a local animal rescue site.

“He’s the most high-profile animal we’ve ever gotten in,” said Nate Lysaght, founder of Nate’s Reptile Rescue at the South Park Fairgrounds. “I’ve never gotten calls for someone to want to visit something before, so this is a first for us.”

Because of that and his rare behavior, Chomper is becoming an animal ambassador for public events.

Lysaght said the facility uses animals like Chomper “for educational programs, which really entails going around to anywhere from preschool-age kids to seniors in high school, college clubs or classes.”

Nate’s Reptile Rescue will be taking care of Chomper for the next two to three years. That is when he’s expected to grow from his current four-foot length to about six feet. At that point, he’ll be moved to a reptile sanctuary in Florida or Texas.

Lysaght tells Pittsburgh’s Action News 4 he thinks Chomper was someone’s pet who escaped.

“A lot of the alligators we get in are — it’s kind of like raising a dog, right? If you don’t raise them around people, you don’t hand-feed them, you just leave them in a corner in a crate all day, they’re not going to be very personable animals,” Lysaght said. “And that’s how most of the alligators we get in are.

“But this guy was definitely very well cared for. A lot of attention, being fed, hand-fed, around people all the time. So it’s just more shocking to me that he got out at all.”

No one has come forward to claim Chomper. He is the 30th alligator taken to Nate’s Reptile Rescue since it started in 2020.

“Every one we’ve taken in has been somebody’s pet at some point that they just thought would be a good idea and then quickly figured out, ‘Not too much,'” Lysaght said.

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