Alligator Captured In Wisconsin Big Muskego Lake
The alligator captured in Waukesha County’s Big Muskego Lake earlier this week is a toothy reminder that people should not release exotic pets or plants to the wild, say state wildlife, animal welfare, and invasive species experts.
“Before you purchase a pet, know what you’re getting yourself into and never release pets to the wild,” says Mark Hess, operations manager for the animal shelter now caring for the alligator.
It’s difficult to recover them, they can compete with native species, and the animals may die in the wild, Hess says.
If people have a domestic pet or exotic pet they no longer want they should contact their local animal shelter, which has the connections to help place the animal with an appropriate home, Hess says.
The alligator captured Tuesday by the City of Muskego conservation coordinator will stay at the animal shelter for a 7-day waiting period in which its owner can come forward, claim it and explain how it came to be in the lake. When that waiting period expires, Hess has made arrangements to transfer it to a University of Illinois herpetologist who every year picks up and helps find permanent homes for more than 100 alligators abandoned in Chicago area ponds, sloughs, and ditches.
It’s illegal to release, stock, or introduce any nonnative fish to Wisconsin except with state stocking permits. Captive wildlife laws make it illegal to release, stock or introduce to the wild most species of mammals, birds, reptiles, amphibians, mollusks, or arthropods that are wild in nature or normally found in the wild without a stocking license, according to Peter Flaherty, the DNR attorney who handles invasive species and fisheries topics. And 2009 invasive species rules makes it illegal to introduce any invasive plants or animals to the wild that are on the state’s list of prohibited species, http://dnr.wi.gov/invasives/classification/.
Releasing exotic pets or invasive plants to the wild is not only illegal, it’s a bad idea for other reasons, says Bob Wakeman, who coordinates aquatic invasive species control efforts for the DNR.
“These out-of-place creatures can make their way to the waters of the state, and as we’ve learned with the red swamp crayfish, controlling or eradicating them can be extremely expensive, frustrating and time consuming.”
The red swamp crayfish, another species native to the southern U.S., was discovered for the first time in Wisconsin in August 2009 in a Germantown pond, and later that fall in a Kenosha pond. The crayfish is considered a serious threat to native fish, frog and crayfish populations and can damage fish habitat and water quality.
DNR trapped the crayfish in the Germantown pond for weeks, and then chemically treated the pond in November 2010 to get rid of the invasive crayfish. The department also treated the Kenosha pond earlier this year. Those efforts have significantly knocked back populations of the crayfish at both ponds but haven’t eliminated them entirely because some crayfish burrowed deep into the banks and survived the treatments. The department continues to explore methods to eradicate the crayfish. Additional treatment may occur this year or next year.