Yesterday afternoon, at around 3:30 p.m., L.A. County Fire Fighters received a call for help from a fellow County employee at Ken Malloy Park in Harbor City. In a small cove at the edge of Lake Machado, there he was.
Reggie the Alligator had been found!
With LA city officials already conveniently on hand at the park for a 3 p.m. "strategy reassessment meeting" regarding the celebrated gator, Jon Murki, chief of the city's Recreation and Parks Department, and City Councilwoman Janice Hahn were all smiles as the two year drama involving the park's most famous temporary resident came to a sudden, and well-publicized, ending.
"We were talking about strategies for catching him when somebody called and said, 'He's out of the lake'."
"It was an unbelievable day - and at the end of the day it was city of L.A. employees who caught him, not alligator wranglers from somewhere else," Hahn said. "Who said we don't do gators?"
But before Reggie could be strapped to a gurney and whisked away to the Los Angeles Zoo, with news vans and helicopters in tow, question were already being asked by some whether this really was, in fact, the Reggie.
The size of this alligator is somewhat larger than Reggie, and there would not have been enough time for Reggie to grow to that size," said Ed Boks, general manager of the Los Angeles Department of Animal Services. When asked who might be skeptical about the alligator's identity, Boks answered, "A number of experts."
"Maybe instead of Reggie One, this is Reggie Two."
Boks' staff at Animal Services was not involved in the apprehension of the reptile.
Gregory Randall, a department wildlife specialist, offered this: "It's not like Reggie was tagged. There's no way to prove definitely that this is the same Reggie."
To quote one of those covering the story for television, Nischelle Turner of Fox 11 News, "Unless he was wearing a name tag that says, 'Hello, my name is Reggie', we'll never really know."
The question of the animal's identity was not in question for the sister of former L.A. Mayor Jim Hahn.
"He looks like Reggie to me," councilwoman Janice Hahn said. "We were petting him, talking to him... I feel like I know him because I've invested a lot of time and energy in him." Just two weeks ago, when asked if she could confirm the identity of the animal as Reggie, Hahn told the L.A. Daily News, "I don't know how we'll ever know."
No word on whether the councilwoman will be asked to confirm the creature's identity by picking Reggie out of a line-up at the L.A. Zoo.
As recently as last week, plans were still in the works to bring associates of the late Steve Irwin, the "Crocodile Hunter", to capture Reggie, after multiple attempts have failed to bring results during the last two years. The cost to the county is almost $200,000, not including the cost to prosecute the two men accused in 2005 of dumping Reggie in Lake Machado in the first place, former LAPD Officer Todd Natow and Anthony Brewer, both residents of nearby San Pedro.
Now, while in the middle of a meeting staged in the same park that Reggie has called home for two years, and with costs mounting by the day, the capture of "Reggie" had the feeling of something being staged.
It's curious how, just one day before a busy Memorial Day Weekend was to begin, the capture of "Reggie" went off without a hitch.
Kevin Regan, Assistant General Manager for the city's parks department, said he went to the lake last Sunday and devised a plan to trap the reptile.
"I went down there and found the area he was coming through," Regan said. "All of the vegetation was matted down, and I found this one pathway that it seemed like he was using."
Monday, Regan built a chain-link enclosure with a swinging door. On Thursday, that door was slammed shut with "Reggie" trapped inside.
Mission accomplished, right?
Parks Chief Murki put it this way: "We knew with the weather heating up.. that this could happen and, in fact, it happened real quick."
So with tongue loosely in-cheek, and with lawn chair opened on the shores of Lake Machado, I'll leave you with a quote by a city official from a classic film about civic responsibility, the public's right to know, and holiday fun in the sun.
"I'm pleased and happy to repeat the news that we have, in fact, caught and killed a large predator that supposedly injured some bathers. But as you see, it's a beautiful day, the beaches are open, and people are having a wonderful time. 'Amity', as you know, means 'friendship'". - Mayor Harry Vaughn, Jaws.
And when the Fourth of July rolls around, remember...
I'm rooting for Reggie.
Copyright © 2007 Bill Friday