URBANA — Freshwater Farms in Urbana provides a home for rainbow trout, rare sturgeon, snapping turtles and numerous other breeds of fish and reptiles, but their new pet may make some of the current guests a little nervous.
The farm is the new home to Fluffy, a 30-inch alligator that was discovered Sunday evening in a pond near a home in the 1700 block of Ohio 29 West.
With the help of wildlife officers, Champaign sheriff’s deputies used a noose to capture the animal after local residents reported seeing it wandering in the area. “It was actually in the pond,” Sheriff Brent Emmons said. “Nobody knows how it got there.”
Once it was captured, Emmons said, deputies put the animal in the back of a cruiser and drove it to Freshwater Farms, a local aquaculture farm that has a license to care for reptiles.
Dave Smith, owner of Freshwater Farms of Ohio Inc., said the business was celebrating its annual Ohio Fish and Shrimp Festival when deputies arrived, carrying the alligator, its jaws bound in duct tape. The three-day festival focuses on farmed seafood.
Many of the guests at the festival quickly crowded around.
“We got lots of looks, including one from my wife,” Smith said.
One of Smith’s employees had always joked about buying an alligator for the farm and naming it Fluffy, so the name stuck immediately.
On Monday, Sept. 20, Fluffy was being kept in a large blue bin with enough space to swim and rest in the sun. But as the weather turns cooler, Smith said Fluffy will be moved to a warmer location inside one of the barns on the farm.
“We know we can take care of him and make sure he has plenty of things he can eat,” Smith said.
Emmons said deputies have been called out to trap snakes and other wildlife before, but this appears to be their first time trapping an alligator.
So far, deputies have no information about who owned the animal, but they believe it was a pet that someone dropped off when it grew too large. “At this point there is absolutely no information to us to indicate how it might have gotten there,” Emmons said.
Meanwhile, Clark County officials are still searching for an African serval cat, which resembles a cheetah and is about 3 feet long. The animal escaped from its owner’s home in July.