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‘Gator aid’ to the rescue after Hamilton family finds alligator in their backyard

Hamilton resident Walter Ertsinian got a shock earlier this week upon discovering an alligator resting in his backyard.

Walter Ertsinian/THE CANADIAN PRESS

A Hamilton man's plans to celebrate his 25th wedding anniversary turned unexpectedly wild when he discovered an alligator lying in his back yard.

Walter Ertsinian said the discovery of the 1.5-metre-long reptile nearly derailed dinner plans he'd arranged with his wife and children as the family grappled with the issue of what to do with the animal, which would typically be more at home in a tropical climate.

Ertsinian said it was his daughters, aged 18 and 11, who first came upon the alligator on Tuesday night as they were wrapping up a swim in the family pool and noticed something off to the side.

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"They both looked at it and said, 'maybe dad bought something for the pool like a vinyl blowup thing, or maybe dad bought some kind of weird statue as a joke and put it on the side and didn't tell us,"' Ertsinian said of the girls' initial reactions. "And then they saw the head move and said, 'no, it's alive!"'

Ertsinian said his youngest daughter was distinctly uneasy about the animal's presence, and he too felt misgivings as it began to move in his direction.

Using the remains of an old picnic table, he created a barrier between the animal and his family before seeking further help.

Not knowing how exactly to best handle the situation, Ertsinian said he called police. They directed him to Hamilton Animal Services, who quickly arrived on scene to help out.

A Facebook post from the department described the responding animal services officer as the "gator aid" and showed a video of him using a flexible lead to corral the reptile.

Ertsinian said the alligator didn't appear to appreciate the interaction, hissing and thrashing its tail, but he said animal services staff managed to remove the reptile without incident.

The department did not respond to request for comment, but Ertsinian said he's heard the reptile has been safely relocated to a facility equipped to handle its needs.

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Animal Services' Facebook post suggested that the department is at a loss to say how the alligator came to be in the yard.

Ertsinian said his home backs onto both the Bruce Trail and a nearby rail line, speculating the alligator may have been abandoned in the area or worked its way off a passing train.

Hamilton residents are not allowed to keep alligators as pets, according to Animal Services, which notes that the reptiles are prohibited under city bylaws governing responsible ownership.

Ertsinian said the safety of his family and his neighbours was on his mind throughout the encounter on Tuesday, saying he feared the incident could have been highly dangerous to small children or even family pets roaming the area.

Since it was resolved without any issues, however, he said the story has now simply contributed to making a festive occasion all the more memorable.

"The 25th anniversary and that time we had an alligator in the back yard? We're going to remember that for sure."

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