There is a thriving market for pet alligators in Michigan and many of the reptiles are killed or abandoned when they start to get too big.
Local 4 investigated and found alligators for sale at an expo in Kalamazoo, among other locations.
The Critchlow Alligator Sanctuary has 200 alligators under their care that had been abandoned. They are a rescue facility for unwanted reptiles.
“One particular alligator was locked in a dog crate for seven years. He was never able to touch water or swim or touch the ground,” Lina Kelly said. “Some have come in really horrible situations where their mouths have been taped shut and I’ve had wounds all over their faces. So, some of them are locked away in closets and misshapen their spines.”
Kelly said most people don’t realize how big alligators can get. They can reach up to 15 feet long and live for 60 to 70 years.
What happens when alligators get to big?
Local 4 went in undercover with cameras rolling to a Mt. Pleasant home where alligators are being sold.
“How big are they gonna get?” Local 4 asked.
“They can get up to 15 feet. I mean, so, they can get pretty big,” Mike Morningstar said. “Obviously, a 15-foot gator -- it’ll kill ya.”
Alligators can grow to be absolutely massive, but that doesn’t stop Mike and Raquel Morningstar from selling young alligators for $200 each. The couple admits the animals they sell usually wind up discarded.
'They either keep them, or they eat them, or turn them into boots'
“What do people do when they get really big?” Local 4 asked.
“They either keep them, or they eat them, or turn them into boots,” Raquel Morningstar said.
Raquel actually suggested people could eat their alligators when they get too big to handle.
Baby alligators are also listed for sale online with ads that say they “won’t last long.” Who’s buying them? Mike Morningstar said random people.
The Morningstars are licensed to sell alligators. They said they buy them from a breeder in Florida. They resell the animals and mail them around the country.
“We started out with like six and then we had 10 and had an order of 18 and we had 12 more after that and they’ve gone quick,” Raquel Morningstar said.
Mike Morningstar said that there are no legal issues in Michigan and that they can own and sell them. That it’s “not a big deal.”
That isn’t completely true though. While there aren’t any state laws against alligator sales, some Michigan cities have banned them.
The Morningstars told our undercover producer that this is the end of alligator season -- but it’s not the end of the issue.
Local 4 spoke with health officials in Detroit and they confirmed they are getting calls for alligators in the city.
The sanctuary Local 4 visited said they have 200 alligators right now and worry more could be dumping off their pets as winter sets in and the gators continue to grow.
Previous coverage on alligators and crocodiles found in Michigan: