A routine traffic stop for expired tags took a strange turn in South Carolina when deputies discovered the driver’s scaly passenger — a 2.5-foot-long alligator, according to the Berkeley County Sheriff’s Office.
It happened Tuesday on SC Highway 402 near Moncks Corner, according to the release, and the motorist escaped by jumping from the vehicle and running.
Investigators say the driver, who remains at large, has been identified as 48-year-old Tracy Lee Crane of Moncks Corner, a Berkeley County town about 35 miles north of Charleston.
“An inventory of the vehicle Crane left behind (revealed) something that would make anyone call an in-vesti-gator,” the department said in a release.
“Deputies discovered a baby alligator inside of a book bag! After a short bonding moment, Wally the Baby Gator was safely relocated with the help of (the South Carolina Department of Natural Resources).”
Crane is wanted for charges including possessing an alligator without a license, failure to stop for blue lights and sirens, driving under suspension/second offense and driving with an expired registration, officials said.
The sheriff’s office said it was the vehicle’s expired registration that prompted the traffic stop.
“The driver, later identified as Tracy Lee Crane, did not stop,” officials said.
“Crane continued driving until his vehicle got stuck on a wood pile and then he fled from the traffic stop. ... Crane left something pretty important in the car … his cell phone.”
Investigators did not provide specific details on the alligator, including where and when it was to be released.
American alligators are native to the coastal wetlands in South Carolina and are about 10 inches in length when they hatch, according to state wildlife officials. Male alligators can grow over 13 feet long in the state.
A 57-year-old South Carolina woman was killed by an alligator in May 2020, when she strayed into a Kiawah Island pond and tried to touch the reptile, McClatchy News reported last year.