ST. CHARLES, Md., July 31 (UPI) -- A man in St. Charles, Missouri, hooked a baby alligator while fishing a local pond this week. It measured just over 18 inches long.
"I was super surprised," said the fisherman, Walter Bushmann. "I probably jumped back a foot."
Bushman claims he saw two more gators in the pond, but wildlife officials were unable to locate any others. Bushmann said the hook had ripped a hole in the gator's throat and that the reptile was quickly dying, so he was forced to kill it on the spot.
Alligators aren't native to Missouri; it's likely the gator was a discarded pet.
One local pet owner has suggested the now-dead alligator may have been the one he witnessed being stolen from his store over the weekend. The surveillance footage shows a man pocketing a baby alligator from an aquarium and walking out of the store. The store owner suggest the suspect may have ditched the gator in a panic.
Others are less worried about petty theft and more worried about the safety of area children.
"Let's say a 7 or 8-year-old latched on to one of them and pulled it out of the water, and thought it was cute and got bit," said Bushmann.
But local conservation officials say a baby alligator won't be able to grow to dangerous proportions, as Missouri winters are too cold for them to survive for very long.