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Mother Nature may have spared Beaver Run alligator

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By R. A. Monti
Monday, March 26, 2012

The Beaver Run Alligator might still be alive.

Experts expected that the alligator, which workers at Beaver Run Reservoir spotted in the fall, wouldn't survive the usually harsh temperatures of a Western Pennsylvania winter.

But Mother Nature might have given it a break.

"This is the mildest winter I can remember," said Henry Kacprzyk, curator of reptiles at the Pittsburgh Zoo and PPG Aquarium. "In order for it to die, you would have to have some sustained cold weather.

"I would say there's a possibility it survived."

According to the National Weather Service, the average temperature this winter was 34.6 degrees — about 4.2 degrees higher than normal.

Zoo officials believe the alligator was dropped off at the reservoir by someone who had kept it as a pet and couldn't take care of it anymore.

The fate of the "Beaver Run Gator" caused a stir last fall when officials at the Municipal Authority of Westmoreland County said they would let it die during the winter.

After public outcry and a Facebook page supporting the alligator, municipal officials allowed Pittsburgh zoo workers onto reservoir property in hopes of capturing the alligator and sending it to a sanctuary in Florida. The reservoir usually is closed to the public.

Multiple attempts to capture the gator were unsuccessful. Some observers said the animal was 5 feet long, but zoo officials said people tend to overestimate size.

Kacprzyk said the only way to know if the alligator made it through the winter is if someone spots it. That hasn't happened yet, said Gina Cerilli, spokeswoman for the Municipal Authority of Westmoreland County.

"We always have security looking over our property," she said. "None of our employees have seen the alligator."

Judy Lindberg, a retired Penn State New Kensington professor who lives less than four miles from the reservoir, in Washington Township, said the alligator has become the subject of local lore.

"People call it the Loch Ness Monster," she said. "Most people around here think it was cruel to just let it die during the winter, so we hope it survived."

Could the alligator still be lurking in the 25-mile-long reservoir?

"Until someone sees it, we don't really know," Kacprzyk said.

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