“The sight of a young alligator swimming Sunday afternoon in the Lehigh River shocked two fishermen, but it was business as usual for the gator’s rescuer.
Christina Obrecht has collected hundreds of reptiles, and the 3-foot American alligator swimming sluggishly in the shallow part of the river in Allentown was no different.
The men who spotted the gator around the American Parkway bridge called Obrecht, who owns the nonprofit Christina’s Reptile and Animal Sanctuary.
She and a volunteer grabbed what they needed and headed from Carbon County down to the Lehigh Valley. Obrecht was grateful the gator was still there when they arrived.
“It was the first time I was actually able to get some place in time, where it didn’t swim away,” she said.
The water was bitterly cold, so the gator was more inactive and Obrecht used a stick to steer him toward her.
Obrecht can’t swim, and her one leg was getting sucked into the sand when she finally grabbed him.
The gator had a sudden burst of energy and even hissed at Obrecht.
While gators can withstand cold temperatures, “he would have eventually died,” she said. “He would not have survived the cold weather.”
They named him Ice Pop, and Obrecht and the volunteers got him back to their facility where they warmed him up slowly, first getting him to room temperature.
Ice Pop was missing a few toes from his back left leg, but it is an old injury, Obrecht said.
They’re guessing based on his size he’s about 3 or 4 years old.
Obrecht grew up in Palmerton and her first love was horses, but she has been rescuing reptiles and other exotics for almost two decades.
It started when she was diagnosed with cancer in 2005.
“I wanted to take care of something while I was sick,” which turned into her getting an iguana.
That iguana is now 4 feet long, and Obrecht has saved a host of other reptiles, rescuing about 150 alligators, crocodiles and caimans, a relative of the alligator.
Obrecht said many locals don’t realize gators are sold as pets.
Buyers start to realize their “pet” is too big to handle, usually when they grow between 2 and 4 feet long.
Ice Pop appears to be a pet set loose, she said.
“Most of the public can’t house them properly for the long term,” Obrecht said. “Most of the time, people do call to surrender them. … We try to make sure people call places, instead of just letting them loose.”
On Tuesday, Obrecht had just gotten back from transporting Ice Pop to a facility in Wilkes-Barre.
It’s the same place that took a 4-foot caiman found in New Jersey a couple of weeks ago, after Obrecht did not have the space to house him, either….”