HOW I REMEMBER THE TIME OUR SEWER CREW RESCUED A REAL LIVE ALLIGATOR FROM A CLEVELAND CREEK

  1. In November 2012, I got a call from our Sewer System Maintenance & Operation Department.
    They are the crew out in the field every day, making repairs and performing maintenance.
  2. PATTY: "Hey John, this is Patty. Is Jean around?"
    Patty is the admin assistant in SSMO. Jean is our Public Information Officer.
  3. ME: "She is but I haven't seen her recently. Can I help you?"
  4. PATTY: "..."
    Her pause indicated a moment of indecision. We'll occasionally get calls from field crews when media show up on work sites or interact with employees in public. It's not often, but the pause led me to think there was an issue that needed immediate attention.
  5. PATTY: "We uh..."
    Uh oh.
  6. PATTY: "Our guys were out on an inspection..."
    I'm frantically grabbing a note pad at this point.
  7. ME: "Uh huh."
  8. PATTY: "They found an alligator."
  9. ME: "..."
    Silence. I had her repeat what she told me.
  10. ME: "I'm sorry, a what?"
    See? Told you.
  11. PATTY: "Our guys. They found an alligator."
    Ok. So now here I am, the social media coordinator for a sewer utility who just heard that one of our investigators found an alligator in the field. An alligator. In a sewer.
  12. ME: "So where is it now?"
    I didn't know how big it was, if it was healthy, or dangerous, or alive. None of those questions seemed to matter at the moment because I NEEDED A PHOTOGRAPH AND WHERE WAS I SUPPOSED TO GO RIGHT NOW TO GET IT I NEED A PHOTO.
  13. PATTY: "George has it in a garbage can."
    Say what now?
  14. ME: "..."
    😶 George was a supervisor who was on scene at the inspection.
  15. ME: "It's alive?"
  16. PATTY: "Yeah. It's about 18 inches long."
  17. ME: "..."
    😶
  18. ME: "ok, I'm going to find Jean and then head to meet George. Where did this happen?"
  19. PATTY: "The guys were at a pump station."
    She went on to explain that the crew was visiting a pump station in Cleveland near Big Creek. Very common, very routine, when a surveyor on the other side of the creek caught the attention of our crew.
  20. PATTY: "... he thought he saw something in the creek."
    It looked like a log from where he was, but thought our crew was closer and could get a better view. He was right.
  21. PATTY: "Marty went down and was able to scoop it out."
    One of our guys could tell it was no log. It was a real alligator, but they had no idea if it was alive, dead, or dangerous. A gator in a creek near a sewer outfall in the middle of Cleveland in November? He grabbed an empty garbage can and scaled down the stream bank. *scoop*
  22. PATTY: "George brought him in and added some warm water."
    When they saw movement, they added warm water to the can just to bring his body temp up.
  23. PATTY: "Then we called you."
  24. ME: "OK, I'm going to find jean, give me George's number and I'll call him."
    I basically drop the phone and sprint to where I think Jean may have been. Found her. When she made eye contact with me, my eyes all like 👀, she knew something was up.
  25. ME: *out of breath*
  26. JEAN: "What's going on?"
  27. ME: "Our guys at the pump station. They found an alligator."
  28. JEAN: "..."
  29. ME: "..."
  30. JEAN: "..."
  31. ME: "real live alligator. Almost 2 feet long."
  32. JEAN: 👀
  33. ME: "we need to go now."
  34. JEAN: "On my way."
  35. ... Who to call and what to do? ....
    As we're gathering details, we're determining the proper protocol for who to contact and what to do. Do we call the Zoo? The Department of Natural Resources? Division of Wildlife? Phone calls a-flurry.
  36. We get there.
    We pull into the Jennings Road pump station to see George standing next at the door, trying to stay warm, hands in pockets, next to a gray garbage can. He's smirking. We approach.
  37. GEORGE: "Hey guys."
  38. ME: "So this is new."
  39. GEORGE: "Yeah."
    I'm the first to approach the can to see what we have. And...
  40. GEORGE: "You want a better picture of it?"
  41. ME: "Well sure..."
  42. GEORGE: "..."
  43. As George told us the story, I shot some video and talked to the crew on the scene who made the rescue. Jean was on the phone with the Ohio Department of Agriculture, who informed us it was likely a pet owner who released the gator into the wild rather than obtaining a permit or being fined.
  44. Back to the lab
    We were awaiting further instruction, so the crew loaded the can and gator into the truck, securing it for transport back to our lab,
  45. Warm water and reenergizing
    We brought her inside and added warm water again, then transferred her to a sterilized container.
  46. Cleveland Metroparks Zoo to the rescue
    The officially 25-inch-long alligator was placed in quarantine for 30 days at the Zoo’s Center for Zoological Medicine to assess its condition, then transferred to the Zoo’s Conservation Education Division, where she became part of the Zoo’s Conservation Education programs including outreach.
  47. Off to Florida
    Once at the zoo, she was named Chickasaw, and she was used for outreach until big enough to relocate to Florida. She was healthy and grew to almost 4 feet long while in the zoo's possession.
  48. Never since.
    Alligators in the sewers is an urban legend, but this is a story we have not experienced since.
  49. Relive the magic!...
    We gave the rescue a "Crocodile Hunter" treatment back in the day: http://neorsd.org/GatorVideo