AT the time of year when many people dump unwanted cats and dogs, spare a thought for this shocked pet centre owner who found a CROCODILE lying outside his gates.
Jim Wick, owner of 'Wickid Pets', in Wolverhampton, discovered the exotic creature dumped in a plastic box when he arrived at work on Thursday.
The 5ft long croc, which is more at home in South America than the Midlands, has been taken in by the kind-hearted animal lover - who admits he was lucky not to have a chunk of his arm missing after he made the startling discovery.
"As I was driving towards the gates I saw a big, plastic container so I jumped out and walked over,” said exotic animal expert Jim.
“I thought it might have been kittens or turtles because we often have animals left outside by people who don’t want them anymore.
“I was taken aback when I lifted the lid and looked inside.
“I put my hand in straight away to test the warmth of the water. I’m lucky it wasn’t aggressive because it could have had my hand off.”
Although many people would have ran a mile from the deadly croc, fearless Jim snapped into action, scooped it into his arms and rushed it into one of his reptile vivariums.
Staff at the park have been looking after the female caiman croc, who they have affectionately christened Snappy the Christmas Crocodile, since yesterday's shock discovery - feeding it a diet of rats and mice.
And Jim says he is more than happy to keep caring for his latest visitor, which is capable of growing to an enormous 8ft, until animal experts come forward to take her on.
“We’ll have her here for a few days then if no-one comes forward, she’ll probably go to somewhere like West Midland Safari Park,” he said.
“She’s in good health so has clearly been looked after. She has a few broken teeth but that’s normal with her diet.”
The animal expert says he has contacted the police to find out whether there has been any reports of missing crocodiles but to no avail - although he does have his own suspicions about what has happened.
“Some people aren’t given the correct facts when they buy animals like this and they find them too much to cope with,” he added.
“They’re an exotic animal that need specialist care and you need a proper licence to have them. Too many people just don’t know this.
“She’s not given us any problems and is content as she is. She’s being well looked after and we will make sure she goes to the right kind of home.”