Beaver Run Snow Gator
In September of 2011, security personnel at Westmoreland County's Beaver Run Reservoir in Pennsylvania spotted a five-foot-long alligator swimming in the reservoir's northern waters. Municipal Authority of Westmoreland County manager Chris Kerr was understandably concerned and contacted the Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission, but was told not to worry.
"Our security people spotted an alligator there about a month ago, and we haven't found it yet," Kerr said of the reservoir in October of 2011. "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."
Public safety was not an issue, according to Kerr, because the fenced-in reservoir is off limits to the public, and isn't close enough to residents' homes to create any real danger of an attack.
Initially no plans were made to look for the creature, and commission officials believed that the often-harsh Pennsylvania winter would kill the out-of-place alligator.
"Because it's not native to this area, it won't survive," said Eric Levis, spokesman for the Fish and Boat Commission. "It's too cold, and the alligator is not meant to survive in this kind of coldness."
Local woman Kendra Fouse didn't like the idea of a lonely alligator freezing to death in her neighborhood, and started a Facebook campaign to garner public support.
"It's a cold-blooded creature. They have to have warmth," Fouse said. "They shouldn't just let it die. It's animal cruelty. It's the same as leaving a dog out to die."
Municipal authority officials were initially reluctant to allow any rescue operations, citing safety concerns, but eventually relented; partnering with the Pittsburgh Zoo and PPG Aquarium to search for the alligator.
15 people in four boats searched the reservoir in late October, looking for the lost reptile, but turned up nothing save a few tracks.
The alligator was never found, but that doesn't mean it didn't survive through at least that winter. The winter of 2011 in Pennsylvania was particularly mild, and experts believed that it's possible the beast was spared.
"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."
The lost alligator soon took on a legendary status and became a part of local lore, according to retired Penn State New Kensington professor Judy Lindberg.
"People call it the Loch Ness Monster," Lindberg said. "Most people around here think it was cruel to just let it die during the winter, so we hope it survived."
However, municipal authority security personnel hadn't spotted the alligator as of the spring of 2012, and the Beaver Run Snow Gator's ultimate fate is still unknown.