It had been about a month since the former tenant moved out of the apartment above Hanson's Tavern, 615 Cranston Road, and owner Richard Pinnon sent some teenage relatives to clean out the space, said Willis Abegglen, deputy chief of the Town of Beloit Police Department.
The teens screamed when they found a 3-foot alligator in the apartment, Abegglen said.
"One of the (tavern) employees went up there and caught it, put it in the bathtub," he said.
Someone called police, who in turn called the Rock County Humane Society.
The American alligator was in rough shape after a month of neglect, but it survived because it's cold-blooded and can shut down its metabolism, said Jim Hurley, humane society interim director.
"It's probably doing a little better now that it's warmed up," he said this morning. "Right now, it's just sitting in a pool, kind of basking."
Hurley couldn't feed the alligator right away because he had to wait until its body temperature rose, but he planned to give it some gizzards ("a good source of vitamins and proteins") today, he said.
Hurley hopes to send the alligator to The Serpent Sanctuary in Fort Atkinson.
Town of Beloit police are looking for the former tenant, but they don't know where he is, Abegglen said.
The state doesn't have a law against purchasing alligators, but many municipalities, including the Town of Beloit, have ordinances against owning them, Hurley said.
Even if it's legal where you live, it's not a good idea to own an alligator, he said.
"It's not a domestic pet, where you're going to be able to pet it and be friendly," he said. "They're going to look at you as food at some point."
He estimated the alligator in question is 2 or 3 years old, not full grown but still big enough to bite someone's finger off.
The humane society is having an interesting start this year, Hurley said. Last week, it called The Serpent Sanctuary to take two illegal 6-foot pythons and a baby 1-foot python.