It hardly seems out of place in Elisa Wilkie’s home – an American alligator soaking, mouth open, in a bathtub.
The five-foot long gator, named Littlefoot, is one of 50 reptiles, arachnids and amphibians living in Wilkie’s Colonsay home, which doubles as a certified rescue.
“As much as we love to take them into our home, we need more space,” Wilkie said.
Iguanas lounge on armchairs in the living room, while a tortoise munches loudly on lettuce in a spare bedroom. There are different snakes, turtles, lizards, a toad — even a tarantula named Charlotte — all taking refuge with the Wilkie family, including four-year-old Josh and two-year-old Annalise.
“My daughter has a thing for her tortoises and spiders, my son is the snakes and lizards,” Wilkie said. “They just grow up to have that passion for them and that respect for them as well.”
Wilkie has already looked at a few spaces in Warman, Martensville and industrial Saskatoon that would allow the rescue to open a larger facility, and gain a zoo permit.
The mom of two has worked with exotic animals for 13 years, and started the rescue five years ago. With a small staff, she offers educational shows for schools and events showcasing some of the animals to help raise funds for the organization.
“The animals that are most misunderstood are what we work with,” she said. “We urge people, ‘Do not take things out of the wild, do not release captive animals into the wild.’”
She’s helped rehome more than 300 animals, and works in partnership with other rescues to ensure exotics especially are sent to places safely and legally.
“Lots of people own these guys when they’re small and tiny, then they start to grow up,” Wilkie said. “Just because you can own something, doesn’t mean you should.”
Littlefoot alone requires an entire bathroom during the winter months. The nine-year-old alligator has been with Wilkie for more than a year, after being surrendered by a travelling zoo.
And in case people are wondering – it’s legal to own an American alligator in Saskatchewan, unlike the most recent addition to Wilkie’s home.
After being found loose on a gravel road in Saskatoon, a red-tailed boa constrictor was sent to the reptile rescue.
The four-year-old snake, named “Pip” by Wilkie’s son Josh, is being quarantined at the rescue for 30 days, before being sent to an approved adopter.
“It’s an exotic snake that’s not native to Saskatchewan and those types are not allowed for import into the province,” said Rich Hildebrand with the Ministry of Environment Thursday.
Hildebrand said conservation officers do get calls for exotic animals in the province throughout the year. As for where Pip came from, he noted there’s not much information yet.
“If someone saw something, someone dropping it off, they may report that. But at this time, we do not know,” he said.
Saskatoon police released dashcam footage this week of the officers who handled the snake at 8th Street and Zimmerman Road.
Boa constrictors and pythons are not legal to own or possess in Saskatchewan, however, Wilkie works with Canadian wildlife and fisheries from time to time to ensure exotics are rehomed properly.