When residents in the 6600 block of North Applegate Road decided to go swimming Saturday afternoon, they got the shock of their lives: A 3-foot alligator was sunning itself on a log near the Applegate bridge.

When residents in the 6600 block of North Applegate Road decided to go swimming Saturday afternoon, they got the shock of their lives: A 3-foot alligator was sunning itself on a log near the Applegate bridge.

Oregon State Police game enforcement officer Marty Marchand told OSP Sgt. Jeff Fitzgerald it was an alligator, but Fitzgerald thinks it might have been a crocodile or a caiman.

Fitzgerald did not have the names of the people who called authorities. Either way, the animal is now dead and in custody of the OSP. It may be turned over to the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife.

Marchand “had to shoot it,” Fitzgerald said. “You don’t want those animals in the river. It’s not like we readily have tranquilizers available. If he doesn’t take action at that time, it slides into the river and it’s gone.”

It is unknown whether the animal was a pet that escaped, or was let loose.

It is legal to have a pet gator, but not to release exotic species into the wild, Fitzgerald said. Alligators and crocs normally live in the tropics.

It isn’t the first time a large lizard has been seen running loose in Josephine County.

“About a year ago, Marty had a similar complaint on the Rogue River in the Grants Pass area, of three alligators being spotted,” Fitzgerald said. “By the time he got there, they were gone.”

Last September, a Merlin family discovered a 6-foot monitor lizard under its house. It was captured and taken to MB Reptiles on Sixth Street.

In September 2006, a 4-foot alligator was captured by county animal control after being seen running around a Cloverlawn Drive neighborhood. “Steve” the gator was taken to Fuzzy Farms Rescue in Coos Bay, the only state-approved reptile rescue facility in Oregon.

Jeff Duewel is a reporter for the Grants Pass Daily Courier. He can be reached at 474-3720 or jduewel@thedailycourier.