SEATTLE -- Skeptics scoffed at reports that alligators were swimming around in Green Lake but a state wildlife official got to the bottom of the mystery when he discovered two caimans on the shore.
'I told you, I told you!' shouted Lynn Olsen, who thought she had spotted an unusual creature slithering into the lake.
Caimans are smaller cousins of alligators and similar in appearance.
Doug Wechsler, wildlife biologist for the state game department, discovered the two amphibious reptiles Wednesday night while he and others were boating on the lake.
'I shone a light on the shore and saw eyes shining,' he said Thursday. 'At first I thought it was a cat, but when I got on shore and walked up I saw it was a caiman. The other was nearby. One was quite cold and not doing too well but the other was quite lively.'
The two young caimans were both a little more than 2 feet long, he said. Adults grow to 4 or 5 feet.
'All I had to do was pick them up.' He put them into a bag and took them to his home near the lake. One was ill but the other seemed healthy, Wechsler said, adding that the animals probably would be donated to a zoo.
'They're harmless as long as you handle them correctly,' Wechsler said. 'They won't bite you unless you get within a few inches of their mouth.'
Nobody knows how the caimans got into the lake. Wechsler speculated they may have been bought as pets, then released when their owners become alarmed at how big they had grown.
Caimans are native to Central and South America.