A small crocodile is on the loose in a Bavarian lake popular with swimmers and has so far eluded a team of 12 police divers.
The aquatic reptiles aren't indigenous to any part of the European continent, but that hasn't stopped an apparent stray creature from adding a bit of summer suspense at the lake.
There have been two sightings already this month, including a dramatic encounter with a 44-year-old woman who was swimming in the Klausensee lake on July 1 and collided with the reptile, sustaining a 7 centimeter (2.75 inch) scratch in the process.
"The woman said she was swimming to retrieve her air mattress, which had drifted off along the shore when she was suddenly covered in earth and an animal swam over her, it had a long tail and was about a meter (three feet) long," police in the town of Schwandorf said in a statement.
"She fled out of the water calling for help and described what had happened to her son who had come rushing towards her. But he could only see bubbles in the water."
Jaws-Style Panic Unlikely
Police have been scouring the large lake with binoculars and have banned people from swimming or approaching its shore, but so far the Schwandorf community hasn't descended into a Jaws-style panic.
"I don't think it's a life-threatening crocodile, it's only a meter long and the tail will take up a lot of that, so its snout is unlikely to be huge," police spokesman Michael Rebele told SPIEGEL ONLINE. "An aggressive dog would pose a bigger threat. This animal doesn't appear very aggressive. The claws and teeth could cause injuries though."
The crocodile was last reportedly sighted at around 8 p.m. last Saturday by a man walking along the shore.
New Search on Wednesday Night
The local fire department will conduct another search on Wednesday night, using rowing boats and searchlights. "Experts tell us that these animals are active at night and extremely shy, so we will search tonight in the dark and we won't use motorboats," city spokesman Lothar Mulzer told SPIEGEL ONLINE.
"Given the size of the animal one shouldn't be afraid to set foot outside one's front door but someone with a weak heart may come across it so we've got to deal with it," said Mulzer. He added that the city's bathers have plenty of alternative lakes and pools to enjoy.
Exotic animals are increasingly popular as pets and, as they grow, they can become too expensive, inconvenient or ferocious for their owners. It is not uncommon for them to be abandoned in the wild.
"This is the third crocodile we've had in this area in the past seven years," Rebele said. "We have made a public appeal for reptile owners or people who know them to come forward. If we get information, we'll go round and ask them where their crocodile has gone. It's probably someone from around here. You don't drive across the country to get rid of your crocodile."
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