Canadian Alligator

Large Crocodilian of western Canada. Variant name: Pitt Lake Lizard. Physical description: Length, usually 5-10 feet, wit h a maximum of 20 feet. Relat ively smooth, dark skin. Horns or ears are sometimes report ed. Long snout. Jaws 12 inches long. Four legs, 10 inches long.

Behavior: Aquatic but seen on land occasionally.

Tracks: Webbed.

Distribution: Pit t Lake, Koot enay Lake, Chill-iwack Lake, Cult us Lake, Nitinat Lake, and the Fraser River, in British Columbia.

Significant sightings: On October 10, 1900, George Goudereau saw an animal like a 12-foot alligator crawl out of Crawford Bay on Koote-nay Lake and root for food in a garbage heap. Lat er, a t r ail of lar ge, webbed t r acks was found.

In 1915, Charles Flood, Green Hicks, and Donald Macrae found some black, alligator-like lizards in a small mud lake south of Hope, Brit ish Columbia.

Possible explanation: An unknown species of cold-adapted crocodilian. The American alligator (Alligator mississippiensis) is the most northerly American crocodilian and is found as far nor t h as t he Nor t h Car olina coast. It was r e-ported in southern Virginia in colonial times. Crocodilians depend on their environment to provide body warmth, and their hatchlings are mor e suscept ible t o chilling t han adult s. In fact, eggs incubat ed at t emper at ur es lower t han 88°F will tend to produce only female offspring and ultimately threaten the viability of the population. Nonetheless, both the American and the Chinese alligators (A. sinensis) dig burrows into which they can retreat during cold spells. They can also survive in lakes t hat ar e fr ozen by keeping their nostrils above the surface as their metabolism and body temperature drop. In warmer times, at least three species of crocodilians lived in Canada: Leidyosuchus canadensis and Stangerochampsa in Alberta during the Lat e Cretaceous, 65 million years ago, and Borealo-suchus acutidentatus in Saskatchewan during the Paleocene, 60 million years ago.

Sources: Ivan T. Sanderson, Abominable Snowmen: Legend Come to Life (Philadelphia: Chilton, 1961), pp. 39-41; John Kirk, In the Domain of Lake Monsters (Toronto, Canada: Key Porter Books, 1998), pp. 176, 185-186; Chad Arment and Brad LaGrange, "Canadian 'Black Alligators': A Preliminary Look," North American BioFortean Review 1, no. 1 (April 1999): 6-12, http://www.strangeark.com/nabr/ NABR1.pdf.

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