THERE are many places you wouldn't expect to find an alligator in your job as an RSPCA inspector - and Bury would probably be high up on that list.

However, it was in 2002 that a six foot long Mississippi alligator was discovered lurking in the back garden of a house in Bury, with rehoming inspectors facing a snappy surprise.

The weighty reptile had been bought by his owner 27 years prior when he had just hatched and was just 10 inches long.

'Samson' had been imported from the USA and to house the unusual pet, the owner, who did not want to be named, put up a special building next to his conservatory.

But despite years of companionship his owner realised that, as his pet was still growing, he could no longer keep him and turned to the RSPCA.

Chief Inspector Terry Spamer, from the special operations unit, used his extensive network of contacts to find Samson a place in the sun.

Samson left Bury and was loaded onto a van for a journey to Terra Exotica, a crocodile and alligator park near Seville in Spain.

"Mississippi alligators commonly live for about 80 years," Mr Spamer said at the time.

"Samson has got a lot of growing and developing to do and the owner realised he would not be able to provide the necessary facilities to meet Samson's future requirements."

Mississippi alligators can grow up to 19 feet long, and tighter legislation since the 1970s makes it much more difficult to import such animals.

However, Samson's owners held all the necessary licences to legally keep him at his home.

Mr Spamer added:"This case is a graphic example that exotic animals do not make good pets.

"The RSPCA rescues around 3,700 abandoned and unwanted exotic pets a year, mainly snakes and lizards."