Merton, Wisconsin, resident Wendy Wiesehuegel and her brother-in-law suspected they saw an alligator at Lake Keesus. He laughed it off, and she had to agree it seemed very unlikely. Then two days later, their suspicions were confirmed most unexpectedly.
The 237-acre lake in Waukesha County has 5.3 miles of shoreline and is as deep as 42 feet. Local fishermen love the clear waters that are home to fish like bluegill. Families enjoy swimming, never suspecting there could be an alligator in the water. But it seems there WAS an alligator there, maybe even all summer!
Burnt Toast the Rescued Cat Drags in Proof of the Alligator
Then on Sunday, November 27, 2022, Wiesehuegel saw that her rescued cat named Burnt Toast was dragging parts of something from the lake. The cat’s funny and fantastic name adds another level of oddity to the story. She said her kitty is a “great cat hunter,” bringing her something daily.
The 2-year-old black cat seemed proud of what he had found, a strange find in Wisconsin but not unheard of (more on that later).
“He was very proud of himself,” Wiesehuegel told WITI.
After the Cat Mom got closer, she inspected the parts and put them together. It wasn’t a big carp or a northern pike. That’s when she realized it was an alligator’s head, and there was no mistaking it as strange as it was.
“Unexpected, yes,” said Wiesehuegel. “Definitely unexpected,” she told Fox6.
Images via FOX6 News
Despite the shock, she immediately knew who to call, the Department of Natural Resources.
“I put them together,” Wiesehuegel said. “And I’m like, that’s a gator. I’m calling the DNR.”
At first, she thought Burnt Toast’s prize was a little exciting.
“I was kind of excited at first because you could never see anything around here like that,” said Wiesehuegel.
Sure enough, the DNR confirmed it was indeed an alligator head from an animal that could have been about 3 feet long. Most likely, the creature had been dumped into the lake when a pet owner let it go. Conservation warden Tim Aspenson said he believed it was not from a souvenir alligator head but would check with a wildlife biologist to be sure.
Video by FOX6 News Milwaukee:
Alligators of Wisconsin
As with those who keep big cats, they sometimes get loose. Rarely, people have even let them loose into their communities! The same thing happens with pet reptiles in habitats they aren’t native to, as all Floridians know very well. Wisconsin doesn’t have laws preventing potentially dangerous exotic animals like alligators, but individual municipalities make their own regulations. (There may soon be a law against private ownership of big cats.)
While we love our native Federally protected American Alligators in Florida, the cold-blooded reptiles aren’t likely to survive long in colder climates so far north. So if someone let the alligator loose, they were essentially giving it a death sentence. Not to mention the risk it posed to people, pets, and native wildlife while it struggled to survive and find enough food. In short, letting a pet alligator loose is abusive and harmful. (Or other pets, for that matter.) The Wisconsin DNR is seeking any information on how the gator got into the lake.
It’s not clear why the gater was dead, but it was probably doomed from the start. In an interview with WISN, Wiesehuegel suggested a big eagle she spotted at the lake could have preyed on the reptile. (see video below).
She was rightly concerned for the people and pets around the lake and swimming over the summer. It’s creepy to think about, particularly for those not used to living in gater country.
“I’m very concerned,” Wiesehuegel said to WISN. “Because we swim out there. Kids swim out there. We’ve got babies on this lake. So, we don’t want anything to happen. We’ve got lots of pets around here. We don’t want anything to happen to them.”
In July, Wisconsin police discovered an alligator named Chomper. This time, it was walking down a sidewalk in Kenosha and returned to the person keeping it as a pet. The previous week, authorities found a 2-foot alligator swimming in Fond du Lac County lake. Rescuers at an accredited sanctuary in Michigan took in the gater in that case.
Video by WISN 12 News: