"Gator" found along Catawba River

- What appears to be a decent sized alligator was pulled from the Catawba River near Belmont Tuesday, an unusual find wildlife experts say. 

Officials with NC Fish and Wildlife say a dead "reptile" was found along the Catawba River near the US 74 bridge. Wildlife officials would not say if the animal was in fact an alligator, but based off its snout shape it appears to be a gator.

Alligators have wider, U-shaped snouts compared to their cousin, the crocodile. Crocodiles snouts are more pointed and V-shaped.

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NC Wildlife officials say it is very unusual to find alligators or crocodiles in these waters, since they are not native to the area. They tell FOX 46 that this particular animal could have been someone's pet and that the owner dumped it somewhere in the river. 

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The animal is being taken to Morganton for testing.

NC Wildlife says they receive about three to four calls per year to deal with alligators in the river. Just last year, the North Carolina Wildlife Resource Commission started the "NC alligators" project, which is aimed at learning more about the distribution of alligators in the state. 

Anyone who spots an alligator in North Carolina can upload their photos via a computer at iNaturalist.org or they can download the free iNaturalist app, which is available for iPhone and Android.

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For more information on the project, visit North Carolina Wildlife Resource Commission.

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