Gator gone: Pet reptile has a new home

SANDUSKY See ya later alligator. It wasn't an easy decision, but Ulester Wilkin Jr. h
Cory Frolik
May 24, 2010

SANDUSKY

See ya later alligator.

It wasn't an easy decision, but Ulester Wilkin Jr. has given up his pet alligator -- cleverly named Gator -- to Safari Adventures at Kalahari.

Wilkin, 42, of Sandusky said he grew unhappy with the number of strangers knocking at his door hoping to see the famed reptile.

Gator and his owner garnered a considerable amount of publicity when it was revealed Wilkin was keeping the scaly creature in his basement of his home, located on the 1300 block of Monroe St.

When this came to light over the summer, Sandusky animal control officers told Wilkin he needed to obtain a permit if he intended to keep the creature.

Wilkin was in the process of licensing Gator when he decided it would be better for both he and his long-toothed buddy if he turned the reptile over to professionals who could give him a good home. He decided it would the least cold-blooded of his options, which also included selling Gator.

"I wasn't going to give it to just anybody," Wilkin said. "Now the public will be able to see it, it'll be fed properly, and it'll be handled, which was my biggest concern. ... I'm happy because it will be taken care of."

Wilkin has a long and storied history with exotic pets -- many of which are the creatures of people's phobias and prominently star as the monsters in horror movies.

At the age of 9, when most kids were playing with cuddly cats and furry doggies, Wilkin was feeding his pet scorpion.

A year or two later, he owned a huge black widow spider that sent him to the hospital for two weeks when it bit him on the arm.

Although his parents got rid of the arachnid, Wilkin's taste for the strange and curious persevered.

"I like anything different that people don't tend to get their hands on," Wilkin said. "I am kind of a show off. I've always been the center of attention -- even in school, I was the first black guy on the golf team, swim club team and the swim team."

Before long, he owned chickens, which he raised with his brother in the backyard and sold to neighbors.

Several years later, he claims he owned four wolves, which he also raised and sold. He said their aggressive tendencies led to some issues involving other pets in the neighborhood, and the dog warden took possession of them.

He also claims at one point he owned a tiger cub, monkey and, much later, piranhas, which he kept in a large tank.

From 1995 to about 2000, he owned a 11.5-foot Argentine boa constrictor, which also got him squeezed by animal control authorities, he said.

Wilkin said he had to sell the boa at an auction in Cleveland because he did not want to go through the trouble of licensing it.

Then one day about three years ago Wilkin met a young Sandusky man who had a habit of walking his pet American alligator through town, said Wilkin's friend, Will David, 25, of Sandusky.

"He was walking it down the street one day," David said. "It was on a harness and a chain."

The man expressed his intention to set the gator free down at the shoreline in Sandusky.

Wilkin was not in favor of the idea and paid the owner $300 for the alligator.

He then turned his basement into a reptile-friendly dwelling, complete with a chicken-wire cage and heated pond.

Gator was free to roam the basement as he pleased. Wilkin played with him when he wasn't working and fed him large goldfish and rats.

But Wilkin's landlord was not thrilled with the idea of having a 3.5-foot gator at the residence and contacted animal control.

With a heavy heart, Wilkin turned over Gator to Safari Adventures, where he will be put on display for all paying visitors to see. Wilkin expects to make regular trips to Kalahari to see his toothy buddy.

Although he is no longer the Sandusky Gator Guy, Wilkin could wind up with a new nickname in the not-too-distant future.

On Friday, he didn't sound like his days of collecting exotic creatures was behind him.

"There's something in the works," he admitted, declining to elaborate.