Gator overnights in hotel
Glenwood Springs correspondent
Vail, CO Colorado
PARACHUTE, Colorado ” Montgomery may be the only caiman ever to get put up at a motel in Parachute.
She had a spot in a motel bathroom and her very own water-filled bathtub in case she wanted to take a dip.
“They were calling her Montgomery when she first came in,” said Colorado Animal Rescue Shelter director Leslie Rockey. “But guessing from our research, it’s a female. So we’ve got to change the name but haven’t really come up with anything else.”
Garfield County animal control deputy Keith Clemons said a woman from Florida spotted the 38-inch caiman on the side of Highway 6 near Parachute on Sunday. She thought it was a log at first, but then said she realized it was a “gator.”
“She picked it up, put it in the back of her trunk and took it back to her motel room and kept it in the bathtub all night,” Clemons said.
When the call came in to the Sheriff’s Office, people thought the woman probably just had a large iguana. The caiman is a smaller species of crocodile.
“She called me in the morning and I couldn’t believe what I was hearing, so I went down there to check it out,” Clemons said. “Sure enough, she opened the trunk and an alligator was staring back at me.”
Clemons said the caiman was very docile and calm when he picked it up, as if it were accustomed to being handled as a pet. It was transported to CARE Monday afternoon. Clemons said it’s illegal to have a pet caiman in Colorado.
Rockey said CARE believes the reptile is a female caiman. But CARE doesn’t usually deal with reptiles. Let alone alligators or crocs.
“It looks like she’s in good condition,” Rockey said. “She’s a carnivorous little thing and we’re just trying to keep her warm and keep her comfortable and keep her safe until we can get her to an appropriate place.”
She said CARE isn’t really equipped to deal with reptiles like the caiman, which require a warm environment and foods like chicken, fish and rodents. The caiman was staying in a large dog crate with a rubber tub filled with water inside it. CARE used heating pads and lights to keep it warm and let it outside when the days got warm enough. The caiman didn’t have any microchip or tag of any kind, Rockey said.
The caiman mostly seems calm and peaceful but it became agitated once when it saw a dog pass by from a kennel to a car outside over 15 feet away. The caiman started flailing around a little bit with its mouth open, Rockey said.
“She’s been pretty calm and pretty mellow the whole time she’s been here but the dog definitely spooked her,” Rockey said. “That was the first time we’ve seen her move that quickly.”
Arrangements are being made to transfer the caiman this week to Mountain Aire Reptile Rescue and Sanctuary, of Castle Rock. The reptile rescue organization plans to keep it until it could be transferred to a rehabilitation center in Florida, in hopes it could release the caiman into the wild.
De Farley, who owns Mountain Aire Reptile Rescue and Sanctuary with her husband, said unfortunately it’s not unusual to find reptiles like the caiman apparently abandoned in Colorado.
“We’ve gotten five American alligators this year and I think six or seven caimans,” she said. “Unfortunately caimans are still sold in the pet trade and people can get American alligators. You can get pretty much anything online.”
She said her organization also plans to pick up two more caimans and an American alligator from the Greeley area this weekend.
Farley said it’s irresponsible to abandon a reptile like a caiman somewhere like Parachute. Unprepared people often end up getting those types of animals because they seem exotic or people want “bragging rights,” she said, but then the animals grow larger and need to eat larger animals like rabbits.
People often give up and ditch the animal. That could lead to problems like the reptile attacking people’s pets in an urban area, or starved, unhealthy animals that haven’t been fed enough of the right kind of food.
Farley said an adult caiman could reach eight feet long.
Clemons, the animal control deputy who recovered the caiman, joked that Sunday was a “reptile day.” He said a woman also reported a 6-foot-long python or boa constrictor loose in the Apple Tree Mobile Home Park near New Castle. Clemons investigated and crawled under a suspected home, but was unable to find any snake.