ST. CHARLES, Mo. - A local fisherman reeled in his largest catch ever when he caught an alligator in a neighborhood pond.
It happened in the Summit subdivision in St. Charles Monday morning.
Walter Bushmann lives in an apartment complex near the subdivision and says he usually catches and releases. This time, what Bushmann reeled in, he knew he had to do something about it.
"Everybody is calling me 'gator man' now," Bushmann said.
He was fishing Monday around 11 a.m. when he started reeling in what he thought was a large catfish.
"I yanked it and it come flying up at me and I jumped back a foot or so," he said.
The juvenile alligator hit the ground and Bushmann made sure it didn't get away. He got a grip on it and, realizing it was about to die, put the animal out of its misery.
Dan Zarlenga with the Missouri Department of Conservation says it was most likely a pet that was dumped, which is a constant problem they see.
"It becomes less convenient to feed them or they outgrow their enclosures or something, so most folks don't know what to do with them at that point, so they end up turning them loose," Zarlenga said.
He says the alligator most likely would not have made it through the winter.
Bushmann held onto the gator until animal control arrived.
"If I tell someone that I caught an alligator are they going to believe me?" Bushmann said. "But I had the proof."
He said he's witnessed two other alligators in the pond, but officials have not found them.
Bushmann said he will keep fishing, knowing he will never top this.
"Even the mailman took a picture of it," he said.
The laws regarding owning an exotic animal differ by state and county. Missouri law allows you to have certain wild animals if you register them, St. Charles County does not allow them.