Alligator found in fishing pond in Luzerne County

By Tom Venesky - [email protected] | August 21st, 2015 6:22 pm

Anglers revel in the splash that erupts when a bass strikes a topwater lure.

But what if that splash is created by something quite a bit larger, and with more teeth, than a fish?

A couple of anglers fishing Harris Pond in Sweet Valley earlier this month nearly landed a catch that would be better not to reel in — an American alligator.

The incident occurred on Aug. 7 and the alligator, which was shot and killed by a Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission officer, measured approximately 3 feet in length.

According to Allan Schreffler, the PFBC’s Northeast Region Education Specialist, two anglers fishing the pond on separate days earlier this month watched the alligator come after their lures and one was able to photograph the reptile. Harris Pond is owned by the PFBC and is adjacent to the agency’s region headquarters, so the anglers promptly alerted commission staff about the sighting.

“One of the anglers said whenever he cast toward the shoreline, this thing came right after his popper,” Schreffler said.

Kingston resident Norm Gavlick, who is a commissioner on the PFBC’s board representing the northeast region, confirmed the reptile was indeed an alligator.

After the region office was notified of the sighting, staff was in the process of erecting warning signs at the pond when they spotted the alligator, Gavlick said.

The reptile was quickly dispatched by a waterways conservation officer and removed from the pond.

While the agency doesn’t know for sure how the alligator got into Harris Pond, Gavlick said it may have been released by someone who kept it as a pet until the reptile grew too large. Releasing non-native species into waterways is illegal, Gavlick added, and he was surprised that such an incident would occur at Harris Pond.

“It’s owned by the commission and adjacent to the headquarters building,” Gavlick said. “I’ve heard of this happening around the state but not locally. Fortunately nobody got hurt.”

According to news reports, a 3-foot alligator was found in July in Lancaster County that turned out to be an escaped pet. Also in July, a 5-foot alligator was captured in Lancaster County after it was spotted sunning itself along a creek. In April there were numerous unconfirmed sightings of an alligator in the Monongahela River in western Pennsylvania, but nothing was found during a search by police.

Schreffler said he doesn’t believe the reptile was in Harris Pond for very long.

“It’s a pretty popular place with anglers so I don’t think it was in there more than a day or two,” Schreffler said.

Alligators are allowed to be owned as pets in Pennsylvania and they are native in states such as Florida and Louisiana. The cold-blooded reptile would not have survived a Pennsylvania winter, Gavlick said, adding there was little choice but to kill the reptile to prevent a safety issue on a pond open to public fishing.

Gavlick said it will be difficult to determine who released the alligator into Harris Pond, but anyone with information can call the PFBC Northeast Region Office at 570-477-5717.

A 3-foot alligator similar to this one was removed from Harris Pond in Sweet Valley earlier this month. 3-foot alligator similar to this one was removed from Harris Pond in Sweet Valley earlier this month. U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

By Tom Venesky

[email protected]

Reach Tom Venesky at 570-991-6395 or on Twitter @TLTomVenesky