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Experts: Beaver Run Reservoir gator's days are few

It won't rival the tale of the Loch Ness Monster, but a 5-foot alligator seen paddling around the waters of northern Westmoreland County's Beaver Run Reservoir has startled passers-by.

"Our security people spotted an alligator there about a month ago, and we haven't found it yet," Municipal Authority of Westmoreland County manager Chris Kerr said.

The reservoir, with 25 miles of shoreline, is a primary source of drinking water provided by the authority to more than 125,000 customers. It is on a 5,000-acre parcel in Bell, Salem and Washington townships.

Kerr said the fenced reservoir is off limits to the public and not close enough to homes to raise concerns about the alligator harming anyone. He said the authority has taken no steps to alert the public about the alligator and does not plan to search for it.

"We contacted the Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission and asked them about it. They said it's not uncommon for some pet owners to leave a reptile in the water once they decide they don't want it anymore," Kerr said.

He said commission officials assured authority personnel that the alligator, not used to the cold, northern environment, will not survive the winter.

"Because it's not native to this area, it won't survive. It's too cold, and the alligator is not meant to survive in this kind of coldness," said Eric Levis, spokesman for the Fish and Boat Commission.

But "obviously, stay away from it if you see it," he said.

Pictures of the alligator have surfaced, including one obtained by authority workers. Some say they've seen the alligator sunning itself on the reservoir's banks and feeding on fish. Others have seen it in the water with just the top of its body visible above the water line. The alligator has not displayed any aggressiveness, Kerr said.

Ray Bamrick, lead reptile keeper at the Pittsburgh Zoo & PPG Aquarium, said even a 5-foot alligator could do considerable damage to a human and urges caution by anyone who sees the reptile.

Bamrick said although the alligator may survive through October and even into November, he agrees that ultimately, its days are numbered.

"It's fine right now, but as it gets cold at night and over days of cold temperature it cannot last. It will eventually die if it is not captured. It won't take long," he said.

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