SAN FRANCISCO — Authorities in Northern California made a snappy discovery during a routine probation check: An alligator-like reptile named "Mr. Teeth," who was apparently protecting a stash of marijuana.
When Alameda County Sheriff's deputies entered the Castro Valley home on Tuesday, they not only found 34 pounds of marijuana valued at an estimated $100,000, but also the 5-foot-long caiman inside a Plexiglas tank guarding it in a bedroom.
Caimans are usually found in the wetland regions of Central and South America. They're considered close relatives of alligators.
"We get guard dogs all the time when we search for grow houses and people stashing away all types of dope. But alligators? You just don't see that every day," Sgt. J.D. Nelson said Thursday.
Assif Mayar was arrested on suspicion of possessing marijuana for sale. He could also face citations from the California Fish and Game Commission, including possession of an exotic animal without a permit.
The 32-year-old told deputies he got the creature to commemorate rapper Tupac Shakur's 1996 death.
"We have come across alligators before, but nobody can remember one this big and situated in such close proximity to act sort of as a sentry to the marijuana," Nelson said.
Officials at the Oakland Zoo said Mr. Teeth died Wednesday, a day after it was seized by county animal control officers.
The caiman was very sick when it arrived at the zoo's veterinary hospital, zoo spokesman Nicky Mora said Thursday.
"The veterinarian said he came in with a poor prognosis and was unresponsive when he arrived here. He passed away overnight," Mora said.