When Walter Ertsinian's 11-year-old daughter saw an alligator in the yard of their Hamilton home, she thought it was a pool toy.
Then the creature moved, and she understandably "freaked out," he said.
The girl had just gotten out of the family's backyard pool when she spotted the 1.5-metre alligator at the side of the house on Tuesday.
Ertsinian was inside, getting ready for his 25th anniversary dinner when he heard his daughter shouting and ran outside.
When he saw the alligator, he was surprised. He did the only thing he could think to do — he called 911.
'I know what their diet mainly consists of and I'd prefer not to be a part of that.' - Matthew Huber, animal control officer
How the alligator ended up on Ertsinian's property on Webster Road, near Centennial Parkway, is anyone's guess, although Hamilton Animal Services says it is likely an escaped pet.
Ertsinian's home backs onto railway tracks. On the other side, there's a closed city reservoir, then the Bruce Trail.
'A nice little conversation piece'
When the 911 operator asked if Ertsinian needed police, fire or ambulance, he apologized. He said he didn't need any of those, he just needed someone who could come get an alligator.
He called Hamilton Animal Services, and someone showed up about an hour later. In the meantime, Ertsinian tried to box the alligator in using wood and a small picnic table.
Matthew Huber, an animal control officer, used a catch pole to catch the alligator and get it into his van. Huber has been on the job for 12 years, and this was his first alligator.
Of all the animals he's dealt with, he said, "this would probably be the furthest into the wild." So he was careful.
"I know what their diet mainly consists of and I'd prefer not to be a part of that," Huber said.
The alligator is a two-year-old male, Huber said. And given that alligators can reach a length of six metres and weigh up to 800 pounds, this one isn't done growing. The alligator is now with an animal rescue organization, which plans to fundraise to send it to an alligator sanctuary in Florida.
Likely an escapee
As for the Ertsinian family, once the excitement was over, they went out for a nice dinner.
"I'm glad no one was hurt, and I'm glad it got out of the area before it injured someone's pets," said Ertsinian, who is a cable technician at Cogeco.
"When you think back on it, it's a nice little conversation piece."
Huber said it's unlikely someone dumped the alligator. It was in good shape, he said, and appeared well fed. "It was likely an escapee."
Whoever owned the alligator won't get it back now. Under the city's responsible animal ownership bylaw, Hamilton residents aren't allowed to own alligators.