The Times West Virginian

October 5, 2013

Caiman found in Mon River; reptile is killed by fishermen

In same animal family as alligator

By Colleen S. Good
Times West Virginian

FAIRMONT — After reports from residents that an alligator may be in the Monongahela River, the West Virginia Division of Natural Resources put out a call for more information from residents Friday.

Later Friday afternoon, the DNR received information that two fishermen had captured and killed the reptile earlier Friday morning.

The animal, which had been seen between Rivesville and Fairmont, was not in fact an alligator, but is thought to be a caiman.

Caiman are in the same animal family as alligators, and tend to be smaller than alligators, ranging in size from 3 feet to 13 feet long in adulthood.

Caiman strongly resemble alligators. They are a mix of brown and black in color, and are covered in bony plates.

Caiman are typically found in swamps and tropical rivers in Central and South America, though spectacled caimans can also be found in southern Florida.

Spectacled caimans used to be sold as pets in Florida. However, as with many exotic pets, owners frequently released them into the wild once they got to be too big to handle.

Spectacled caimans can live in both salt and fresh water, and eat insects, crustaceans, mollusks, water snails and fish. Most weigh between 15 and 88 lbs, and are between 4 and 6 feet long.

Email Colleen S. Good at cgood@timeswv.com or follow her on Twitter @CSGoodTWV.