Thursday, Oct. 10, 1996 | 11:59 a.m.
After months of speculation, zoo officials are now certain -- the alligator that made its home in Mountain Lake on the edge of the San Francisco Presidio is a he.
It also is healthy, exactly 3 feet 2 inches long and reportedly happy in its new home.
Those and other questions were answered Tuesday night, when associate curator John Aikin yanked the reptile from its lake hideout and took it to the zoo, where it's getting the royal treatment.
"We're going to pamper this guy," Aikin said.
The gator will have a tank of its own so it won't have to share one with the white alligator that already lives there.
Plans for what to do with the reptile now are still under discussion.
Aikin used a fishing pole with a special three-pronged hook and $1.47 worth of raw fish to end a hunt that had continued for 10 weeks.
"We just sort of jumped up and down and said 'We got him, we got him,'" Aikin recalled Wednesday.
The alligator retreated to reeds during earlier efforts to capture it, but this time it was drawn to the bait. "He was just hungry and real curious," said Aikin, who snagged the gator near its tail and then reeled it in.
The gator was very relaxed during the trip to the zoo, and appeared to be in good health, Aikin said.
The reptile was first spotted in early August. Soon after, large crowds gathered to catch a glimpse.
At one point, the San Francisco Chronicle brought in a professional alligator hunter from Florida.
The San Francisco Examiner then sent what it described as an "expeditionary force" to the lake to protect the reptile. Executive Editor Phil Bronstein and reporter Dennis Opatrny, clad in wetsuits, said they wanted to snag the creature without harming him.
The pair was inches from the water when their quest was stymied by police, who cited a regulation forbidding swimming in the murky lake.
The Examiner ran a contest to name the gator. The nickname Golden Gator was the most popular, beating out other entries such as "Van Nessie" and "Presidio Domingo."
When the gator made national news, Ross Johnson of radio station KBAE in Horseshoe Bay, Texas, broadcast updates. On Wednesday, Johnson was elated about the capture. He brought out the station's gator theme song -- a rendition of Elton John's "Crocodile Rock" with overdubbed lyrics.
How did the gator get in the lake? There was speculation that the creature was an abandoned pet, since alligators are not indigenous to California.