You’ve heard about the 800-pound gorilla in the living room. How about a 230-pound alligator in your kitchen?
“You’re used to seeing them, you’re just not used to seeing them in your kitchen,” Sandie Frosti told TODAY’s Meredith Vieira Wednesday in New York.
But that’s exactly where she found an 8-foot, 8-inch gator Monday night in her Oldsmar, Fla., home.
She had been working on her computer in her bedroom at the opposite end of her one-story duplex when she heard a noise. Frosti has a cat, Poe, but she knew it couldn’t be her pet making all that racket.
“It was too loud to be my cat, so I went to check it out,” she said.
Alligators are ubiquitous in Florida, and Frosti sees them all the time in the ponds behind her housing development and on the lawns. But they seem to know their place; although one will occasionally wander into an open garage, house invasions are virtually unheard of.
When Frosti saw about three feet of scaly head and shoulders poking out from behind her freezer, she said her first words were, “Oh, my God ... This has to be gotten out of here.”
She retreated back to her bedroom, making sure the gator wasn’t in pursuit, and called 911.
The 69-year-old Frosti came off as a cool customer, and the recording of her call betrays no panic on her part. It does show disbelief on the part of the dispatcher who took the call.
“There’s an alligator in my kitchen,” she told the operator, who asked how large it was.
“It’s huge,” Frosti answered.
“How long is huge? Four foot?” the operator continues.
“I don't know. I only saw the first half of it and that had to be at least three feet.”
Still not believing that an alligator would be inside a home, the operator persisted: “You sure it couldn’t be like an iguana or a really large ... ?”
Before she could finish the question, Frosti was saying firmly, “Oh, no, no, no, no, no.”
The dispatcher sent the police, who entered the house, took one look at the gator and retreated out of the house, taking Frosti with them as they called a professional alligator trapper.
They determined that the female alligator had pushed through a screened panel on Frosti’s porch, then strolled through a sliding glass door that she had left open. It crossed the living room and entered the kitchen.
There is no explanation for why the alligator went where it did. It might have seen Poe the cat and gone in hoping for a meal. Ron Magill of Miami’s zoo told NBC News that gators are driven by the need to eat and reproduce.
“It has a brain about the size of a walnut,” he said.
Unhappy ending — for the gator
Everybody stood around outside for about 90 minutes while waiting for a trapper to come and snare the gator and drag it out of the house. Poe had been nowhere to be found, and there was some fear that the gator might have made a snack of the cat.
The fears were unfounded. “An hour or so after the police arrived, I saw Poe hop on the chaise that sits in the living room,” Frosti told Vieira. “I don’t know where he was hiding, but he’s got a lot of smarts. He knows the house better than I do.”
She dashed in to retrieve the cat, who remains nervous about being in the house. Finally, the trapper got a loop of wire on the end of a stick around the gator’s substantial neck and hauled it out. Some dishes got broken in the process and the alligator suffered a cut and bled on Frosti’s floor.
When the beast was subdued, the trapper asked Frosti, “Wouldn’t you like to pet him and see how he feels?” She said she figured, why not? Most people never get a chance to feel a live alligator. “The top of him is hard as a rock,” she reported with a note of wonder. “But the sides are soft.”
The alligator was taken away and destroyed lest it resume a career of breaking-and-entering. “Usually, they’re more afraid of you than you are of the alligator,” Frosti explained to Vieira. “But once they go in your home, they’re not afraid of you anymore.”
Frosti expressed surprise that her story has gotten so much publicity and landed her on the TODAY Show. After all, she lives in Florida, where alligators are everywhere.
“It’s mind-blowing,” she said. “I can’t believe all of this. I had an alligator in my kitchen.”