HURRICANE, Washington County — A 3-foot alligator with a plentiful food supply, comfortable climate and no predators was a scary thought for state wildlife officials.

The gator at Grandpa's Pond outside Hurricane could have grown into a serious threat at the popular fishing spot, where families with small children frequent. Soon after a fisherman reported seeing the alligator at the pond July 1, the Division of Wildlife Resources came and captured the reptile.

The pond, also known as Stratton Pond, is stocked with fish and would have supplied plenty of food for the alligator. Southern Utah's warm climate also suits the reptiles, which are generally found in the southeast.

"In my opinion, if it was not caught, it could have been a pretty big problem," said Pam Wheeler, an urban wildlife specialist with the DWR. "It's a heavily visited area."

Alligators are not allowed as pets in Utah. Investigators believe the creature was likely once somebody's pet, but grew either too big or too aggressive and the owner set it loose in the wild. Wheeler said people often believe they are doing the right thing by leaving an animal on its own. In reality, that could be the worst thing for it.

Animals raised as pets are used to being fed and have not had to hunt their own food and may be detrimental to native species, Wheeler said.

The alligator was euthanized after it was captured earlier this month.

"People take on animals like the alligator when they are little and cute and then they grow up," DWR investigator Doug Messerly said. "The future is not bright for these animals."