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Zookeepers 'fish' for 12-foot alligator

'That's Chucky! You've found Chucky!'

By Bryan Long
CNN

story.chucky.highlight.jpg
Despite his impressive size, Chucky, highlighted, maintains a low profile in the water.

GULF SHORES, Alabama (CNN) -- Chucky is used to this kind of attention.

The 12-foot, 1,000 pound alligator is the focus of an intensive hunting expedition after Hurricane Ivan's fury sent him swimming from his confines at the Alabama Gulf Coast Zoo.

Before the storm, Chucky was one of the zoo's most popular attractions and a favorite of children.

Now, with his first appearance on CNN swimming around an isolated, and newly created pond, he's become a media darling.

"When the zoo officials saw our tape, they said, 'That's Chucky! You've found Chucky,' " CNN's Gary Tuchman said.

Other national networks have mentioned Chucky by name while warning of the danger such a large gator presents when on the loose.

Early Thursday, reporters were saying Chucky would be hunted and killed, along with the rest of his former swamp-mates.

"He's unaccounted for at this moment. We cannot send people in to assess more of the damage [to the zoo] until we find the big boy," a zoo official said.

Gulf Shores Police Chief Arthur Bourne said his officers were too busy with "other more pressing matters" to look for Chucky.

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By Thursday evening, however, zoo officials were vowing to rescue the gator.

"They're going to try to capture him alive," Tuchman said.

Most of the zoo's animals, including lions, tigers and bears, were evacuated before the Category 3 hurricane came ashore in Gulf Shores, Alabama, early Thursday morning.

But a group of alligators, at least 20 deer and some chickens were left behind.

The deer were being hunted with tranquilizer guns. At least one alligator was killed in the afternoon and the others may meet the same fate. At least six are still missing.

Not all of the chickens survived the storm. Their fate may prove to be good for Chucky.

Zoo officials lined the shore of Chucky's pond late Thursday holding the dead chickens on long poles over the water. They hoped to attract the reptile and capture it with a noose.

If he's caught, Chucky is sure to be the zoo's most popular attraction once again.


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