WEST ALEXANDRIA — A crocodile was killed by a state wildlife officer after swimming dangerously close to a group of children playing in Bantas Fork, a stream that runs through West Alexandria before flowing into Twin Creek a few miles south of the village.
A group from Hilltop Equestrian Center was holding a lesson on how fish manage to evade predators in Bantas Fork when the animal was sighted. About a dozen children were reportedly present. The group quickly retreated onto a bridge spanning the stream while wildlife officers were dispatched.
“The crocodile swam right up to where the kids had been playing and then stayed in that area until I got there,” State Wildlife Officer Brad Turner told The Register-Herald. Turner is a 12-year veteran of the Ohio Department of Natural Resources (ODNR) Division of Wildlife. Turner has been stationed in Preble County for the past 10 years.
The animal reportedly measured 7.5 feet. Turner said that while much smaller crocodiles are occasionally sighted throughout the state, it’s rare to see one this large.
“People buy them at flea markets or whatnot,” Turner said, speculating as to how the large animal might have ended up in a small-town Ohio stream. “That’s the problem with buying these animals as pets. They get so big that people don’t know how to take care of them.”
Turner said the decision to destroy the crocodile was made based on a careful assessment of the situation. It was late in the evening, growing dark, and Turner was the only wildlife control officer on hand.
“My biggest fear was of the animal getting away and then having to relocate it,” Turner said. “We’ll never know what could’ve happened if one of the adults in the group hadn’t seen it before it reached the area where the kids were playing.”
An instructor at Hilltop who was present during Thursday night’s events believes human recklessness is to blame for the unexpected danger.
“This crocodile was likely a ‘pet’ carelessly released into the wild where it could have killed our children,” the instructor claimed in a statement posted on the Hilltop Center’s Facebook page. “Beware. There very well could be more dangerous creatures lurking in Bantas Creek.”
The animal’s remains were transported to Columbus by the Ohio Department of Agriculture on Friday in an effort to determine whether it might have been purchased legally as an exotic pet, then either escaped or been set free by its caregivers.