Cryptid Profile: Canadian Alligator (AKA: Pitt Lake Lizard)
On October 10th, 1900, on the shore of Kootenay Lake, George Goudereau watched from a distance as a 12ft creature that roughly resembled an alligator crawled out of Crawford Bay and made its way towards a pile of rotten compost that had been collecting on land. George starred as the unknown creature used both its small, clawed hands and its snout to search for food within the pile. Eventually the creature finished its search and made its way back to the water. George made his way towards the location where he watched the creature rummage for scraps and took notice of a trail of webbed tracks in the loose sand and dirt that led both to and from the cold water. George Goudereau eventually told his story to others in the area and soon word spread about a monster living within the cold lakes in the area. The monster became known as the Canadian Alligator.
After the first initial sighting of the creature within Kootenay Lake in 1900, the Canadian Alligator began popping up in other lakes in British Columbia. It was seen within Pitt Lake, Chilliwack Lake, Cultus Lake, Nitinat Lake, and also within the Fraser River. Witnesses often described the Canadian Alligator as having a length between 5 and 10ft long (although some witnesses have claimed it to be over 20ft long, but these reports have been looked upon with great doubt) with a long, 12 inch snout and dark skin that is relatively smooth except for a few rough patches that appeared to be bumpy. The legs were described as being around 10 inches long with four webbed feet and stubby nails at the end.
The second most often talked about sighting regarding the Alligator took place in 1915. Three men by the names of Charles Flood, Green Hicks, and Donald Macrae were in the area of Hope, British Columbia, when they came upon a small mud lake. Within this lake the men noticed what appeared to be small, almost baby looking alligators that were only a few inches long swimming around in the mud. What was striking to all three men were that the creatures were completely black in color and unlike anything they had ever seen before. Unable to successfully catch the slippery little animals and with no good way to bring them back to town, the men left the lake, returned to town, and told their story. But this would not be the last memorable sighting of the Canadian Alligator, another sighting would take place 58yrs later.
In 1973, the third most famous sighting of the Canadian Alligator would take place on Pitt Lake. It is this specific lake that gives the creature is second (arguably more famous) name, the Pitt Lake Lizard. On June 3rd, married couple Warren and Sharon Scott watched in disbelief as a large number of creatures that resembled huge reptiles swam slowly through the water while closely grouped together. While the couple watched from shore, Warren spotted what appeared to be three smaller creatures (only a few inches long) swimming closer to the water’s edge. Assuming these to be infants of the larger creatures, Warren captured three of them and sent one of them off to the Simon Fraser University biology department for study. Records of what became of this collected specimen as well as the two remaining with the Scott’s has been lost in time.
Sightings of a large unknown creature (sometimes creatures) within Pitt Lake have continued well into modern day. The most recent credible sighting took place in 2002 by Pitt River Lodge owner, Dan Gerak. On two separate occasions, Gerak sighted a creature that was over 5ft long and possessed dark black skin that was relatively smooth. He described the creature as resembling that of an oversized salamander.
So what is the mystery creature living within the cold waters of Canada’s lakes? There are a few groups of people out there who believe that an undiscovered species of alligator that has adapted to strictly cold water living is responsible for all the sightings throughout the years. Although it is true that full grown adult alligators can tolerate the cold to some small extent (American alligators dig burrows to survive sudden temperature drops and chilled winter weather), this theory has been widely regarded as unbelievable due to the fact that baby alligators are extremely susceptible to freezing when temperatures drop. Dead alligator hatchlings means that a large breeding population would be unable to establish itself within the lakes of the region. That is why most people believe that the creature responsible for all the sightings of the Canadian Alligator is actually an undiscovered new species of giant salamander.
Now you may be asking yourself right now, “But aren’t salamanders really small?” The answer to that is yes, salamanders usually are pretty small, and most only grow up to a few inches. But there is one salamander living today that puts all the other known species to shame. And it is this giant that gives the undiscovered salamander theory more credibility.
The Chinese Giant Salamander is the largest living salamander in the world today. They can grow to lengths of 6ft and have been known to weigh over 110lbs. The largest on record weighed 130lbs and was found in a cold water cave in Chongqing, China in December of 2015. The C.G.S. also possesses dark skin with typical tones being that of browns, dark reds, and black (sound familiar?). Baby C.G.S’s hatch at a length of 1.2in long and they are only 16 to 20in long at 5yrs of age (Pitt Lake anyone?). It is also believed that these salamanders can live to at least 60yrs of age or longer (this would explain the years long gap in between sightings). Finally, these giants have been known to live in streams, rivers, and muddy lakes where the water temperature ranges from 37 to 77 °F.
The salamander theory sounds a bit more believable now, doesn’t it?
As of right now, the largest salamander in Canada is the Pacific Giant Salamander. These animals can grow up to a whopping 1ft and are significantly smaller than their Chinese cousins. But, that doesn’t mean a giant version can’t be lurking out there in the cold black waters somewhere. For all we know, it’s just waiting to be seen by someone with a camera who can prove its existence. Until that day comes though, if you are ever sitting on a dock with your feet hanging down in the cool waters of one of Canada’s lakes and you feel something big brush against your feet, you can rest assured knowing that it is more than likely not an alligator. It’s just an oversized salamander that wants to let you know that it exists.
-The Pine Barrens Institute