California Pot Growers Use Alligator to Protect Stash

Forever Wild Exotic Animal Sanctuary in Phelan Calif. owner Joel Almquist, 41, holds the more than 4 foot american alligator that was seized from a pot house Monday night March 7, 2011 in Hemet, Calif,. (AP PHOTO/Terry Pierson/The Press-Enterprise)

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By Kelli Sutterman

HEMET, Calif. (AP) — California narcotics investigators found a $1.5 million marijuana growing operation at a house and an unusual security guard — a 4-foot-long alligator named Wally.

The Riverside County drug task force team moved in on the Hemet area house on Monday night and seized nearly 2,300 pot plants. The commander says agents also found the reptile, described as a "watchgator."

The healthy 55-pound American alligator was turned over to the Phelan-based Forever Wild Exotic Animal Sanctuary, since gators are illegal in California.

The Riverside Press-Enterprise reports 29-year-old John Nathan Donna, who lives in the home, was arrested and booked for investigation of marijuana cultivation and possession. He was released Tuesday on $100,000 bail.

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