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Since You Asked: The tale of the Applegate alligator

In mid-August state police/fish and wildlife captured a 6-foot alligator in the Applegate River near Murphy.

Was there ever a determination as to where the alligator came from and were there (are there?) any more? Also, why was there so little news coverage on this event?

— Steve L., Applegate

The father of the alligator's owner called Oregon State Police in the days after Senior Trooper Marty Marchand shot the gator, which was sunning itself on a log near the Applegate bridge in the 6600 block of North Applegate Road.

Marchand said kids going to swim in the river spotted the alligator, which was actually about 31/2-feet long, and he shot it so it couldn't slip away.

The man reported that his son had kept an alligator for several years, raising it from when it was quite small at their home about a quarter-mile away in Murphy.

The family had built a cage in their yard, but the gator had grown strong enough to push the screen away from the wood frame. It had pushed its way out and sauntered down a path through a cow pasture to the river, where it had lurked for several weeks, eluding its owners, Marchand said.

Marchand, who works in OSP's fish and wildlife division, said that was the only alligator involved in that incident, but he has had other reports elsewhere.

In the summer of 2008 he got a call reporting that kids claimed to have seen three alligators in the Rogue River in the Grants Pass area. When he arrived, no gators were to be seen, so he doesn't know exactly what the youngsters spotted.

He said that reptile experts have told him that although alligators are native to much warmer climes than Southern Oregon, they potentially could survive winters here by hibernating deep in mud.

A Grants Pass man caught a 31/2-foot alligator running loose in town in September 2006, and animal control sent the gator off to an animal rescue refuge.

As to the news coverage, there were stories in the Mail Tribune and Daily Courier in Grants Pass. When those initial stories came out, police still didn't know where the gator had come from, so thanks for catching a story that slipped through the cracks (a bit like the way the alligator escaped his cage and slid into the river). We hope this Since You Asked column has sated your hunger for the rest of the story.

Send questions to "Since You Asked," Mail Tribune Newsroom, P.O. Box 1108, Medford, OR 97501; by fax to 541-776-4376; or by e-mail to youasked@mailtribune.com. We're sorry, but the volume of questions received prevents us from answering all of them.