SHIRLEY, N.Y. (CBSNewYork) – A fifth abandoned alligator has been found on Long Island in less than two weeks, according to local officials.

A three-foot-long gator was found inside a container in the parking lot of the Applebees Shopping Center in Shirley on Sunday, according to the Suffolk County SPCA.

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WCBS 880’s Alex Silverman reports

Authorities are now offering a $2,000 reward for information leading to the arrest and conviction of those responsible for abandoning the gator.

The gator was found in a high-traffic area, putting people at risk, SPCA chief Roy Gross said. The gators cannot survive in the cold weather, Gross added.

“You want to see an alligator, go to the zoo,” Gross told WCBS 880’s Alex Silverman.

So far, three gators have been found abandoned in Suffolk, two in Nassau. Gross said he thinks this is not the work of just one gator owner.

“An alligator of this size, whether it’s two-and-a-half feet or three feet, is enough to take your finger off or inflict some very serious damage,” Gross said. “Imagine if a child or even an adult opened up that container and that alligator lunged at them, what kind of damage that alligator could do.”

Gross said some people order the illegal reptiles online but then get overwhelmed as the gator gets bigger.

“These are not the type of pets that you’re going to cuddle up on the couch with and watch TV,” said Gross.

1010 WINS Reporter Carol D’Auria has more…

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Speaking to 1010 WINS reporter Carol D’Auria, Gross had a stern warning for anybody considering bringing an alligator into New York.

“Once it comes into New York State you are breaking the law,” he said.

Owning a gator is punishable by a fine, Gross said, but abandoning the animal becomes a criminal act.

“Once they do what they’ve done in these cases here where they’re just dumped out in the wild, they actually could go to jail for up to a year,” Gross told Silverman.

Late last week, two small gators were found abandoned in the Baldwin Pathmark parking lot. A reward is offered in that case as well.

This is the fifth gator spotting on Long Island in less than a week.

On Sept. 28, an alligator was found crawling on the front lawn of a home in Mastic Beach.

The homeowner managed to capture the 2-foot critter in a plastic bin. It was initially taken to a nearby pet shop and then moved to Jungle Bob’s in Centereach.

Then last Monday, a Brooklyn couple was charged with harboring a prohibitive animal in New York City when officers found a 3.5-foot gator in the couple’s home while executing a search warrant.

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