A small alligator has been spotted in Victor Crowell Park in Middlesex, New Jersey, and authorities are urging residents to stay away from the area, which is roughly 360 miles north of the known range of alligators in the United States.
The alligator, which is estimated to be three to four feet long, was first seen on Wednesday afternoon. It has since been spotted in Lake Creighton, commonly known as the Duck Pond, and the Ambrose Brook, which is a conduit between the lake and the Raritan River.
Police officers and local officials are putting out all the stops to locate the reptile, including using drones and search dogs. However, the alligator has been difficult to track down.
The Middlesex Borough Police Department is working in conjunction with the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection, Division of Fish & Wildlife Conservation Police Officers in an effort to locate the alligator, which has eluded the hunters so far.
On Friday, a witness said they saw the alligator attack a duck and pull it under the water.
Police officers responded to Victor Crowell Park on Wednesday, August 23, 2023, but they failed to capture the potentially dangerous, non-indigenous reptile, which is normally found in the southeastern United States and is capable of inflicting serious or fatal injuries.
Saturday night, police officers were able to locate the alligator and one of them attempted to shoot it at close range. However, when the officer discharged the firearm the alligator submerged into the water.
Photos of the New Jersey alligator have not been shared by police, but it is estimated to be nearly four feet long.
“Because the threat to public safety that this reptile causes is significant, a Middlesex Police Officer employed a safe discharge from a firearm in an attempt to neutralize it, while in close proximity,” said a statement from Middlesex Borough Police Chief Matthew P. Geist. “The alligator immediately submerged into the brook and it was unconfirmed if the attempt was successful.”
“Citizens are strongly urged to stay away from Creighton Lake and the Ambrose Brook and should NOT approach or make attempts to capture the alligator,” said Geist. “They should contact the Middlesex Borough Police Department at 732-356-1900 if the reptile is observed in the area.”
“Our police officers, along with officers from the NJ Division of Fish & Wildlife Conservation Police have been monitoring the lake and the Ambrose Brook in attempts to locate the reptile and will take all means necessary to resolve this situation,” said Geist. “These are the law enforcement partnerships we count on to help protect our community from this potential threat to the public health.”
Geist said the park is closed to the public for 72 hours or until the alligator is no longer deemed a threat to public safety.
Alligators are not native to New Jersey, so it is not clear how the animal got into the park’s waters. However, it is believed that the alligator may have been released by someone who no longer wanted it.
Officers are continuing to monitor the Duck Pond and Ambrose Brook in an attempt to locate the reptile. NJDEP Fish and Wildlife is seeking information about the alligator’s current location so they can set a humane trap. Anyone with information is encouraged to call the DEP hotline at 877-WARN-DEP.
Residents are advised to be on the lookout for the alligator and to report any sightings to the police. They should also avoid the area around the park until the alligator is captured.
A dead four-foot-long alligator was found in Weequahic Park by a jogger in 2015, and Essex County Sheriff Armando Fontoura reported that his officers removed the reptile’s body,