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While some are questioning why Georgia Department of Natural Resources euthanized an alligator found this week in Hall County, the owner of a nearby wildlife refuge says the animal could have been brought there.
"That would have been a possibility," said C.W. Wathen, who manages Chestatee Wildlife Preserve in Dahlonega. "It could have had a place."
Wathen said he got several calls from people Tuesday asking why he wasn't involved in the alligator capture near White Sulphur Road and Ga. 365 on Sunday afternoon.
Chestatee is licensed by the DNR to have alligators, Wathen said. The preserve already has some 6- to 8-foot alligators. Possession without a license is illegal.
DNR spokeswoman Robin Hill said the alligator was out of its natural range in Georgia and DNR's policy is to euthanize such animals if there are no natural areas nearby to relocate it. There are concerns it would have had a difficult time faring for itself in the wild.
On Tuesday, she said, there also may have been concerns the alligator could carry diseases from being isolated.
The gator was believed to have been someone's pet and was released when it grew too big, Hill said.
Hill said the alligator was reported to be living in a pond near White Sulphur, but she was uncertain how long it had been there.
Wathen said most of the alligators at his refuge were in the same situation as pets, and the owners came to his door to drop them off.
"All of our alligators are rescued," he said.
Chestatee has had alligators for 20 to 25 years, he said, and they have proved popular with people who visit the refuge.
"Kids just love to see an alligator," he said.
Wathen added his alligators also help educate people on why they should not be kept as pets.
"We're really big on educating the public," he said.
Unlike the alligator caught this week, Wathen's alligators don't have to endure the cold winter in North Georgia. He puts his in a heated den during winter, he said.
The one euthanized Sunday "survived through the winter, and I'm impressed," he said.