Mike McClay is kinda missing his buddy Kurt.
True enough, he kept Kurt in the basement and fed him cheap chicken cuts.
But that doesn't mean McClay, an exterminator, wasn't fond of the five-foot long alligator he took in from a customer. The customer said that her son, the gator's original owner, left it behind when he went to jail, McClay said yesterday.
"She didn't know what to do with it," and the zoo didn't want it, saying it was overwhelmed with gator offers, McClay said.
The Pennsylvania Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals did know what to do with Kurt, after seizing him, along with three flesh-eating piranha - all that was left of an original fish tank of eight - from McClay's South Philadelphia home on Tuesday.
George Bengal, chief of cruelty investigations for the PSPCA, said yesterday that after a physical exam, Kurt would be sent to a gator-rescue organization, "probably by the end of the week."
The fate of the piranhas was uncertain.
PSPCA spokeswoman Kim Wolf noted that it is illegal to keep alligators and piranhas in the city.
McClay, 49, of Warnock Street near 13th, said Kurt was only about 18 inches long when he got him 3 1/2 years ago.
"I got kind of attached to [Kurt]," he said.
If Kurt got too big, McClay figured he'd take the gator on a one-way ride to the Florida Everglades.
Acting on a tip, PSPCA agents found Kurt in the basement with his own pond, the kind used in outdoor landscaping, and a couple of heat lamps "to act like the sun for him, so he could bask," McClay said.
McClay fed Kurt smelts until he tired of them, and even hard-boiled eggs, after he saw a TV report about a woman in Florida feeding gators hard-boiled eggs. But that got kind of messy, he said.
So he settled on chicken thighs, and some chicken breast.
"When it goes on sale, it's pretty cheap," he said.
McClay said he named Kurt, who bit him once on the finger, after a school buddy who was "kind of a bully."
"Actually, so was my gator. He really didn't like company," McClay said. "He would grunt." *