No tears for Carson City crocodile |

No tears for Carson City crocodile

Appeal Staff Writer
A baby Cayman crocodile peers through his cage at the Carson City Animal Shelter on Friday. The crocodile, native to Venezuela and the Amazon basin, was brought in to the shelter by a local resident because the reptile was getting too big for him to handle. AP Photo Brad Horn/Nevada Appeal

The round-tailed ground squirrel, mule deer, elk, coyotes and quail – Northern Nevada is known for its menagerie of wildlife, which now includes a crocodile named “Al.”

The croc lies completely still in a bath of warm water under the artificial sun of a heat lamp, a predatorily crocodilian grin on his face. His eyelids pop open and reveal a pair of voracious yellow eyes and serrated black pupils.

While the temporary resident of the Carson City Animal Shelter on Butti Way is still a juvenile and “probably” isn’t strong enough “to take your thumb off,” according to estimates made by shelter director Pat Wiggins, he still shakes his head at the notion of killer reptiles as house pets.

“This is a bad idea,” he says.

The 21Ú2-foot crocodile ticks like a quiet little bomb in his pan of water, able to strike with the speeding lunge of a snake. Tucked in cages a safe distance away, his feline neighbors seem to sense the presence of the cayman in their mounting complaints, while Al seems to sense the presence of a potential buffet.

He likes mice and goldfish, notes Wiggins, but refuses to eat his vegetables.

Al’s former owners brought him to the shelter when the animal began growing out of control.

“People get these animals as pets right out of the egg,” he says. “They’re tiny at first but they grow really fast in the first couple years of life.”

While the exact migration pattern that brought the exotic predator from the hot, wet evergreen rain forests of South America to the dry, high-desert climate of Carson City remains unknown, Wiggins blames the Internet rather than the animal’s navigational skills or sense of wanderlust for its sudden appearance.

Available for sale and trade on message boards over the Internet, exotic animals like crocodiles have become a dangerous alternative to the golden retriever.

Nevada is one of 15 states in the United States with no current law or prohibition on the sale or possession of such captive wild and exotic animals like Al.

Still, says Wiggins, shaking his head again. “This is a really bad idea.”

A veteran of jungle animals among the cats and dogs the shelter normally tries to find homes for, Wiggins recently found a zoo willing to take a 10-foot python dropped off at the shelter after the snake’s owner got evicted from his apartment.

Wiggins says he’s already made some calls to a few zoos and has a good home lined up for the transient crocodile.

“At least the owners did the right thing in this case,” he says. “An irresponsible owner would’ve released the croc out into the wild.”

Wiggins says while the animal wouldn’t survive the Northern Nevada winter, it could’ve made for a dangerous swimming buddy during the summer.

n Contact reporter Peter Thompson at or 881-1215.