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Thursday, March 10, 2011

Watchgator: Four-foot-long alligator found protecting $1.5million drug stash

By Daily Mail Reporter

Watchgator: Forever Wild Exotic Animal Sanctuary owner Joel Almquist holds the four-foot-long American alligator which he said was well looked after

It appears the days of dogs being used as the animal de jour for drug barons protecting their stash are over.

For narcotics investigators in California found a $1.5million marijuana growing operation being protected by an alligator.

The unusual four-foot-long security guard was found at a house in the Hemet area where they seized almost 2,300 pot plants, processed marijuana and hashish.

Agents have described the reptile - named Wally - as a 'watchgator'.

The healthy 55-pound American alligator has since been turned over to the Phelan-based Forever Wild Exotic Animal Sanctuary, according to the Press Agency.

Alligators are illegal in California.

John Nathan Donna, 29, was arrested and charged with suspicion of possession of concentrated cannabis and cultivation of marijuana for sale

Allied Riverside Cities Narcotics Enforcement Team Commander Brian Link said Donna's suburban house on Sunset Lane was a front for an unlicensed, home-operated medicinal marijuana dispensary.

He said the investigation started when authorities received anonymous complaints that people at the home might be dealing drugs.

Donna was released on Tuesday on $100,000 bail.

Security: Wally the alligator was guarding the $1.5million stash of marijuana at a house in California and is now being held at a sanctuary in Phelan

Wally was being kept as a pet but had been living in a black cement mixer full of water in the growing area so he could protect the pot, according to investigators.

Joel Almquist, who runs the Forever Wild Exotic Animal Sanctuary said: 'He was extremely healthy, a little too well taken care of.

'It's still an alligator, some are pretty mellow, but if you get bit by a three-footer, you're going to remember it for a long time. It's kind of like being bit by a vise with teeth. It's not a pleasant experience.'

Mr Almquist said he received a similar report of an alligator in Hemet several weeks ago and said it may be the same one as it was never found.

Although they are illegal to own in California, he said they are easily and cheaply obtained on the internet or from other states.

He said: 'One of their draws is because they are illegal. That gives them spice to have them. They're cheap and they're fairly easy to get.'

Fish and Game biologist Kevin Brennan told the Press Agency that illegal animals are often found along with other illegal activity, such as during drug busts, and that having alligators released into the wild - when they get too big - is a major concern.

He said: 'It's got very big jaws, a lot of teeth, and their brains are very small.

'It can be really docile or aggressive, but there's no predicting their mood or behaviour. We don't want them around people or kids or pets.'



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