Croc found in Madera County

MADERA COUNTY, Calif.

                  |   Watch Video Above for Extended Coverage   |

A caiman was found near Avenue 14 and Road 28 outside Madera. Caimans are the smallest member of the alligator family.

The Madera County Sheriff's office got a call Wednesday night about an alligator sighting at a cemetery.

The animal control officer who came out to catch the caiman says it was the most unusual and exciting call she's ever had.

Meet "Chomper." That's the fitting name Tiffany Beechinoor gave this toothy, three foot caiman after catching him at the cemetery Wednesday night.

"I just couldn't believe it when dispatch called me out and said it was a gator. And they said it was a small baby one," said Beechinoor. "I drove out there all excited of course, and when i got out there it was a little bigger than what i was expecting."

Beechinor used a snake prong to pin the reptile's neck before grabbing his tail and getting him into her truck. Nancy Diaz's son watched the rescue unfold from their home across the street.

Diaz said, "I go, how come you took so long, and he says well there's an alligator over there, I says, an alligator! I go wow, what is an alligator doing here?"

Animal control officers are not sure how the caiman ended up in Madera County, considering they're native to central and southern America. They're also illegal in California. Their best guess is he escaped from someone's yard or was dumped because he got too big. But this is less than half the size he could reach.

Kirsten Gross said, "In the 10 years I've been here, this is the first alligator or caiman that's come in luckily."

Shelter Director Kirsten Gross called the California Department of Fish and Game, and a warden arrived Thursday afternoon to take Chomper to his new temporary home.

Lorraine Doyle said, "This guy is going to Fresno County, southern Fresno County to be cared for hopefully until we can find him a permanent home."

Critter Creek Wildlife Station in Squaw Valley is the rehabilitation center that will be taking Chomper for now. But if the Fish and Game Department can't find him a permanent home, the warden says he will have to be put down.

Copyright © 2021 KFSN-TV. All Rights Reserved.