'I Think the Thing's Name Is Fluffy': Man Finds Neighbor's Pet Alligator in Backyard

Chris Suljak reacted to the sight of an alligator the way most people would: by screaming an expletive. Little did he know that the reptile was actually an escaped pet who had been on the lam for two weeks.

While American alligators can be found "as far north as North Carolina and as far west as eastern Texas," according to the National Wildlife Federation, they are not native to Missouri because they cannot survive the state's cold winters, according to The St. Louis Post-Dispatch.

On Sunday, per the local news outlet KMOV, Suljak was mowing his lawn and cutting off tree limbs when he heard a splash and saw a "pretty good-sized tail" disappear into the creek that borders his backyard in the town of Wildwood, Missouri, according to KTVI. In response to his shout of surprise, his stepdaughter came running out of the house.

She says, "'Are you OK?,' and I said, 'No, I just saw an alligator,' and she started laughing," Suljak told KTVI. "So needless to say, everyone started running down here."

Using a dog leash, Suljak and his family members rigged up a makeshift catch pole and began trying to capture the alligator. While the animal was a relatively small specimen—Suljak estimated that it was around 54 inches long and 50 pounds—it still put up an impressive fight. It took Suljak and company three hours to successfully apprehend it because "he kept outsmarting us and going to the deep end," Suljak told KTVI. His 11-year-old stepson, Marcus Williamson, even filmed the proceedings. "I know, buddy, you lost the battle today," Williamson told the alligator as it was lifted out of the water, and it reportedly hissed as its mouth had been duct-taped shut.

A wildlife control officer soon arrived to take the animal into custody after Suljak called the Bi-State Wildlife Hotline.

After posting about the bizarre incident on Facebook, Suljak said that he received a message from a neighbor who claimed that the alligator was a pet that had escaped his enclosure two weeks before, according to KTVI.

"He told me it happened to climb the fence. He said it had never done that," Suljak said. "I think the thing's name is Fluffy."

While it is not categorically illegal to own alligators in Missouri, the state does require owners of specimens that are more than eight feet in length to register their atypical pets with the health department.

An alligator in Florida.
Chris Suljak found out that an alligator he saw in his backyard in Missouri actually belonged to a neighbor. Above, an alligator in Florida. Bruce Bennett/Getty Images