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MT Press: ... gator sent to new home by express mail

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Posted by W von Papinešu on March 12, 2003 at 11:57:07:

{The following was lateralled over by Desiree Wong over at the iguana forum.}

BILLINGS GAZETTE (Montana) 12 March 03 After 5 months in Billings, gator sent to new home by express mail (Ed Kemmick)
The Pauli family is one alligator poorer today, but rich in goldfish.
Dave Pauli, director of the Billings-based Northern Rockies regional office of the Humane Society of the United States, shipped Allie the gator to a wildlife refuge in Florida on Tuesday, after sheltering her at his home for the past five weeks.
He fed Allie many goldfish over those five weeks, but his daughters, 10 and 8 years old, wouldn't let him feed her the "pretty" ones.
"So we've inherited a lot of goldfish," Pauli said.
Pauli inherited the 15-inch-long, year-and-a-half-old alligator when a local man, about to spend some time in the Yellowstone County jail, asked sheriff's deputies if they could find someone to feed his pet alligator in his absence. They couldn't, but the Billings Animal Shelter persuaded the man to let them take the alligator and find it a home.
The shelter turned it over to Pauli, who figured he'd have it for a couple of days before sending it off to a more livable environment.
Easier said than done.
The airlines he contacted were worried about the cold, and unsure what kind of crate or package the alligator should be shipped in.
Meanwhile, Pauli was calling wildlife refuges in Texas, Louisiana and Florida, trying to find somebody willing to care for Allie. A couple of weeks ago, Pauli flew to the East Coast, where he was to meet with a Florida resident, so he thought he could bring Allie as carry-on luggage and turn her over to the Floridian. The airline thought otherwise.
Eventually, Pauli found a suitable refuge, Everglades Outpost in Homestead, Fla., and he learned that he could ship the alligator by U.S. mail, with guaranteed overnight delivery to Florida.
The next step was to build what Pauli called a "gator condo," consisting of a rectangular compartment with poster-board walls erected inside a stainless-steel box normally used to transport rodents. Pauli designed the compartment so it has dry, damp, cool and warm areas, depending on Allie's moods. The heat comes from a disposable hand warmer, the dampness from a wet paper towel under a slab of fake turf.
Postal officials in Billings said that if Pauli got the gator in the mail by 4 p.m. Tuesday, they'd have it delivered to Everglades Outpost by 3 p.m. today. All for just $44.
Allie is an American alligator, not to be confused with the smaller caiman, native to South and Central America. Bob Freer, director of the Everglades Outpost, said American alligators grow as large as 15 feet, with females maxing out at about 800 pounds. He knows of a male that weighs 800 pounds.
Pauli isn't even positive that Allie is a female. It's hard to tell with young alligators, and they are not a specialty of his.
"This is my first aquatic reptile," he said. "We've learned a lot."
Pauli said he and his wife and daughters all fell for Allie right away. It was like having a newborn in the house for the first three days, he said: they all spent hours just sitting around watching her. They also named her.
Allie's former owner fed her exclusively on goldfish, which Pauli said wasn't an optimal diet, so he varied the fare with nightcrawlers and crickets. The new diet, and the addition of a heat lamp, did wonders for Allie.
"She was pretty weak when I got her," Pauli said. "But now she's all hiss and vinegar."

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