Alligators are not natural to Missouri. Apparently, no one told the residents of Kennett, Missouri this because they once had a reptile epidemic. 

The story begins, naturally, with a Florida man. This particular Florida man was a traveling exotic animal salesman, and he wooed an entire southeastern Missouri town with his six-foot-long pet alligator. Kennett residents decided they wanted pets of their own and purchased about 50 baby alligators from the reptile vendor. Now, this sounds like a story from the 19th or early 20th century, back when traveling snake oil salesmen and other peddlers were common, but the Kennett story does take us back in time to the distant era of last decade. Yes, the town of Kennett fell victim to an illegal alligator salesman in the 2010s. 

That is important to note: the buying and selling of alligators is and was illegal. The Florida man was not permitted to sell the reptiles, and those who purchased them were keeping them as pets illegally. But at the time, the people just couldn’t resist it. The alligators were babies, and at most, they likely would have been half a foot in length. Cute and harmless.

How could you say no to that face?

Eventually, the Florida man was chased out of town, just like an old-timey salesman would’ve been when a town discovered he was a fraud. However, the alligators did not really catch the attention of the town’s police again until a year or so later. Police became concerned because those alligators that were once adorable babies had grown into three-foot eating machines.

Kennett now had a real reptilian crisis on their hands. Residents who had purchased a baby gator often freaked out when it got big enough to eat them, and then they released it into the wild. Because Missouri, again, is not a gator’s natural habitat, the beast would then roam and potentially be a menace to society. Oh yeah, and it was still growing.

This meant that the Kennett police had a time-sensitive mission. They needed to catch all alligators in Kennett before they could become a danger. It was like Pokemon, except instead of catching 151, they only had to catch 50. And instead of catching every type, they just needed to catch alligators over and over. Still, they had to catch ‘em all. 

Residents could turn in their contraband alligators with the guarantee that they wouldn’t be charged for owning them in the first place. As for tracking down those that had already been released, that would take more work. Did they succeed? Well, that is a question we may never know the answer to. The tale of the Kennett, Missouri alligators ends in April 2012, at least as far as any press coverage is concerned.

Jackson Jost/Wiki Commons

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