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Crikey! Chicora man ropes himself a gator

| Tuesday, June 28, 2005

A Chicora man discovered and captured an alligator on Route 422 in Butler County last night.

Tim Coleman said he and his fiancee, Brandy Schnur, were returning to Chicora about 8:30 p.m. last night after visiting her parents in Kittanning, when they saw what he thought was a tire by the side of the road.

"She thought it was an alligator right away, so I looked in the rear view mirror, and sure enough, I could see it walking down the hillside toward a swamp," he said.

Coleman turned his pickup truck around and drove back to the alligator. He got out of his truck and took a rope as he followed the alligator toward the swamp area.

He made a lasso with the rope and tried to get it around the alligator's mouth. He said he tapped the animal on the snout to get it to open its jaws.

The gator, roughly 4 feet long, wasn't pleased, Coleman said. "It was snapping pretty good," he said. Once he had the animal roped, he tried to pull it up the hill. "It almost pulled me back down; I was surprised how strong it was."

He picked the alligator up and carried it back to his truck. "I got a nice welt from where it whacked me with its tail," Coleman said. "It was pretty mad."

He said Schnur refused to get out of the truck. "I guess she thinks I'm crazy," Coleman said.

Once they got the alligator home, Coleman said, he taped its mouth shut. "But I couldn't find anyone who would come pick it up," he said. He called police and animal control, but no one was equipped to handle an alligator.

Finally, Dan Finnegan, of the Tri State Herpetological Society, came to retrieve the animal about 2 a.m., Coleman said.

Finnegan said someone likely bought the alligator as a pet, and when it became too big, just dumped it into the wild. "That happens more often than you think," Finnegan said.

The alligator is in good health, Finnegan said, and he should know: He has four at home. "I keep them in a room in my basement and use them for shows, for educational purposes," he said.

While Coleman's gator encounter turned out for the best, Finnegan said he wouldn't advise others to try to rope an alligator. But Coleman said he had to take the chance.

"I figured, how often do you see an alligator in Pennsylvania," he said. "I thought I'd better capture it or no one would ever believe me."

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