Crocodilian Alert in Hampshire

There may be plenty of rumours of “Big Cats” lurking around some of the more remote parts of the British countryside, but a crocodile in a Hampshire lake is a new twist on all those strange sightings of wild animals.  However, for one fisherman, he may well have encountered a two foot crocodile, one that was lurking in the water and ready to snatch fish from the line as the quarry was reeled in.  Alan Pragnell, an experienced angler, was fishing from the banks of a lake near to Ringwood (Hampshire, southern England), when he had the strange encounter.  It may sound like a “fishy tale”, but we at Everything Dinosaur are aware that there are very probably a number of illegally kept exotic pets such as crocodiles in the UK and Alan could well be right.

Alan hooked a small roach, a freshwater fish that is common in England.  He was reeling in his catch when the mystery animal grabbed hold of the fish.  When the fish was let go, the animal was sitting right in front of him, claims Mr. Pragnell

In an interview, Alan stated:

“It was quite clear enough.  It was a matter of inches away, just lying there.  It was a crocodile”.

Another species of fish, the Pike, sometimes called the Northern Pike (Esox lucius), is known to take fish in this manner, but Alan is convinced what he saw was no Pike.

Alan added:

“It was about two foot long.  I was looking at it in disbelief.  It had four legs and a tail.  It was there for about ten seconds and then sunk down into the depths.  I know pike. I know what I saw.”

Although Mr Pragnell survived the encounter, his catch was left “shredded” describing the poor fish as having several deep parallel slashes.  The incident took place in the summer and the local angling association, the Ringwood District and Anglers Association has been informed.

There are many folk who might regard this as a bit of a “fisherman’s tale”, however, despite the derision that Alan has attracted, there may well be something in what he is saying.

Alan explained:

“I am as sure as sure is.  I’m 64 I have been fishing since I was six.  What would be the point in lying?  I reckon someone had it as a pet and just chucked it over the fence when it got too big.”

Such incidents although sounding bizarre to us, are becoming increasingly common in some parts of the world.  In the Northern Territory of Australia, Saltwater Crocodiles do frequently take fish off angler’s lines.  These animals are also responsible for a number of attacks on local fisherman each year, sadly some of these attacks are fatal.

To read an article about an Australia fisherman’s encounter with a Saltwater crocodile: Aussie angler catches crocodile

With no further sightings or evidence, the local angling association has closed the case.  Mr Peter Hutchinson, the club’s Vice President stated:

“Nothing’s been seen since and I’m sure that if was a crocodile it would have died during the winter because it was so cold.”

Well, Mr Hutchinson, I would not be too sure if I were you.  However, we agree about the sensible precaution of keeping the lake a secret, after all, nobody wants to attract would be crocodile hunters to the location.

Everything Dinosaur team members have reported on numerous occasions incidents where “pet” crocodilians have been abandoned by their owners.  In December 2011, we wrote a short article about a caiman being left outside an exotic pet shop in the West Midlands.

To read more about this story: Crocodiles Victims of the Economic Downturn

It is very likely that there are a number of crocodiles, caimans, and alligators being kept illegally as pets in the UK.  These animals are smuggled into the country and sold in a shady underworld of exotic pet sales.  Depending on the species, crocodiles can grow very quickly and soon become exceptionally dangerous.  A two foot specimen may not be a man-eater, but it would still be capable of inflicting a very nasty bite and capable of taking a finger off.  There may be something in what Mr Pragnell says, terrapins have been spotted in and around a number of British lakes and ponds.  These animals are not native to our shores, but they have either escaped captivity or most likely have been released by thoughtless owners who no longer wanted to look after them any more.

Could There Be a Crocodile Lurking in a Hampshire Lake?

Crocodiles do not make good pets

As for any crocodile not surviving the winter, this is no guarantee, the American Alligator (Alligator mississippiensis) which is found in the south-eastern United States can tolerate freezing temperatures, at least for a short while.  All crocodiles are cold-blooded and if there was a particularly cold, prolonged British water it is likely that a large number of exotic reptile pets that had been released into the wild would die. However, if the winter was quite mild, the crocodile may well enter a period of dormancy, not feeding until the warmer weather.  A crocodile could survive into the spring under such conditions.

This weekend there was a report from the UAE of another illegally obtained baby Nile Crocodile (Crocodylus niloticus) being sold via a pet dealer in the local market.  The salesman claimed that as well as crocodiles, monkeys, chimpanzees and poisonous snakes even tiger cubs could be obtained – if the price was right!  We at Everything Dinosaur urge members of the public never to purchase any so-called exotic pets, not least without taking proper advice and checking to see if the sale would be legal in the UK.

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