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Posted by W von Papinešu on April 05, 2003 at 20:33:55:
HUNTSVILLE ITEM (Texas) 05 April 03 Stolen alligators recovered by WCSO (Kelly Prew)
The Walker County Sheriff's Office recently recovered two baby American alligators stolen from the Nature Center at Huntsville State Park sometime last month.
"It was a pretty unique case," WCSO Sgt. Steve Fisher said Thursday. "Our initial response was that we had no way to really solve the crime. Unlike property with serial numbers, these (animals) continue to grow and become harder to identify."
These particular gators, however, were on loan to the Nature Center of Brazos Bend State Park. Brazos Bend has a much larger alligator population and park staff and volunteers actively monitor and research them. The babies were scheduled to be returned and released to the wild this summer.
The alligators were on display to educate and inform many visitors, especially children, about the elusive reptile. Nothing else in the building was disturbed: just the alligators, their food and a container used to transport them.
On March 26, the WCSO received a call from a principal at Katy Taylor High School in Katy, saying two students had been discussing the alligators in class. The 17-year-olds were trying to look up a story on the Internet, which had run in the Houston Chronicle, about the missing animals. A teacher became suspicious and reported the students to the school's administration.
"The school was extremely helpful," Fisher said. "If it wasn't for the teacher being so attentive and notifying us, we probably would have had a much harder time (with the case)."
Fisher and Det. Charles Perkins traveled to Katy on March 27 to track down the lead and were successful, locating not two, but four stolen alligators.
The first pair found, one approximately 3 feet long and the other a foot long, had been stolen from Brazos Bend State Park.
"Those alligators were taken back to Brazos Bend by a game warden (with the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department)," Fisher said. "That's up to Fort Bend County now."
After questioning several teens and adults and finding the first set of gators, Perkins and Fisher located the animals taken from Huntsville State Park.
"We located the two kids, 17-year-olds, and talked to them," Perkins said. "Both gave written confessions and the (felony burglary) charges are pending with the county (district attorney's) office."
Fisher and Perkins transported the gators back to the state park the same day. Both men said the animals appeared unharmed by the week's events.
Huntsville State Park has a population of alligators living in and around Lake Raven.