Gator wranglers from Florida have abruptly quit their search for the city's elusive 7-foot alligator, livid that they were publicly ridiculed by a brash Hurricane Katrina evacuee that a councilwoman brought in to help nab the reptile.

Thomas "T-Bone" Quinn described as "retarded" the tactics employed by the wranglers from Orlando-based Gatorland. He made his comments on Saturday after being escorted by Councilwoman Janice Hahn to Ken Molloy Harbor Regional Park in South Los Angeles, where the gator dubbed Reggie has inhabited a lake for at least two months.

"I am not going to allow Gatorland to be referred to as 'retarded,' " Gatorland team leader Ted Williams said Monday. "I will not allow some swamp rat to walk into a situation and make comments about Gatorland and this team. We conducted ourselves in a professional manner."

Wranglers from Florida and Colorado have tried in vain for five weeks to catch Reggie, who allegedly was dumped in the 53-acre Machado Lake by his former owner when he got too big to keep as a pet.

Some people, including Gatorland's Williams, are suggesting that Reggie should be left alone.

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