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Alligator found at Allentown's sewage treatment plant. How workers helped rescue it

ALLENTOWN, Pa. — Workers at Lehigh County Authority’s wastewater treatment plant fished something unusual out of the plant Friday:

A baby American alligator.

  • The alligator was found Friday by treatment plant workers
  • A wildlife rescue specialist responded to the call
  • 24 hours later, the critter was safe and sound at a wildlife rehabilitation center in the Poconos

The foot-long critter was found embedded in a clump of material screened out before entering the plant along the Lehigh River, off Union Street.

“This alligator was embedded with only its tail sticking out a boulder of this horrible grease and motor oil and diapers and fat,” said Barbara Miller, who was involved in the rescue.

“The gentlemen who work there started picking this rock apart to find out what it was. They thought it was dead.

"By the time I showed up there, they had picked all the horrible stuff off it and rinsed it off and they were keeping it — one of the guys had the little alligator inside his jacket keeping it warm.”

'They're the heroes'

Miller, who is a capture/transport specialist with Wildlife in Need Emergency Response of Pennsylvania, credited treatment plant Manager Gary Saunders and his crew with saving the alligator.

"By the time I showed up there ... one of the guys had the little alligator inside his jacket keeping it warm.”
Barbara Miller, capture/transport specialist

It and the giant clump of debris that contained it would have been shredded by screening machinery were it not for one of the employees noticing a tail sticking out, she said.

“They’re the heroes,” Miller said.

Saunders said it's the first alligator he can recall at the plant in the nearly 25 years he's worked there. Employee Chuck Nonnemaker was the first to spot the tail. Craig Hill helped clean the critter up.

"It nipped at him a couple of times," Saunders said. "But it was pretty calm. He was running it under the sink and trying to get the goop off him. He tried to give him a little bit of tuna but he wouldn't eat. So he just sat there massaging it and it was making little squeaky sounds and everyone was enamored with it."

Exactly how the creature got into the system remains a mystery.

But by Saturday, the alligator was recovering at the Pocono Wildlife Rehabilitation & Education Center outside Stroudsburg. That’s where Miller took it Friday.

Road to recovery

“It’s a first for us,” said Emily Bushta, clinic manager at the center. “Currently we’re caring for it, feeding it and looking for a place to take it. It’s healthy, as far as we know.”

Janine Tancredi, co-director of the wildlife center, said the alligator seemed to be getting along just fine.

“It had some debris embedded in its mouth and a slight coating of oil when they brought it here,” she said Saturday afternoon.

“But we have it in an aquarium with heat lamps. It ate two large minnows yesterday. It’s in clean water.”

Kathy Uhler, founder of the Pocono wildlife center, said the alligator will be taken to Clyde Peeling's Reptiland, a zoo in Allenwood, Pa., that specializes in reptiles and amphibians.

She said it's likely the alligator was an escaped or abandoned pet.

"We re-home exotic pets when we get them in," she said of the center. "They show up all the time."