ST. CATHARINES, Ont. - His name was Mater, the alligator pride of his owner Myke Wallace.
But somehow, Mater escaped from a pool compound Friday morning, its fate sealed at about 2:15 a.m. Saturday when a vehicle struck and killed it near Merrittville Highway and Highway 20.
"I put Mater outside in a pool temporary enclosure while I was changing his enclosure in the house," Wallace, 27, said. "Somehow, he got out of there. I searched all day, all night."
He got the bad news from a friend nearby who told the five-year-old reptile had been killed.
"I just cried. I didn't even sleep that night."
Wallace said he wants it known he's not an irresponsible pet owner and his exotic animals are all legal in the City of Thorold, Ont.
He said he is experienced at caring for the reptiles on his three-acre property on Highway 20.
"It wasn't neglect," he said of Mater, a metre-long rescued animal he owned for three years. "I have been doing this for 18 years.
"I have a five-year-old daughter and I want people to know I wasn't some (deliberately neglectful) person."
The gator get-away raised eyebrows with Niagara Regional Police.
"I'm not often surprised by the calls that come in, but this is something I've never seen in my career," Const. Derek Watson said.
The Lincoln County Humane Society took possession of the reptile and the vehicle involved reportedly sustained minor damage.
Humane society inspector Todd Menard said Thorold does not have an exotic animal bylaw ban.
"Right now in the City of Thorold, you can actually own an alligator," he said.
Menard said the carcass would be held at the shelter for the time being and the provincial Natural Resources ministry and Canadian wildlife authorities will be contacted.
"We want to know how it entered the country. They are not native to Ontario," he said.
Wallace said he wants to bury Mater in his yard, but has been told he won't get the body back until Tuesday.