Alligator found swimming in Flushing Meadows Corona Park

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FLUSHING MEADOWS, Queens — It sounds like an urban legend, but the alligator rumored to be in Flushing Meadows Corona Park, in central Queens, is very much real, as proven by his capture Tuesday afternoon.  NYPD Emergency Service Unit officers bagged the two and-a-half foot reptile from Meadow Lake in the park, with a major assist from a hobbyist fisherman.

"Today I went over there," said Joe Genovese, the operator of the Wheel Fun boat and bike rental kiosk on the lake. He often comes to work a couple of hours early to fish, and Tuesday was no exception.

"I had rode with my bike with the trouble hook," he said in an interview, "it's called the bumpersnagger.  I didn't want to hurt it, because I wanted them to relocate it.  [On my] first cast, the line went right over his tail, I yanked, snagged him, brought him in backwards.  ESU guys helped me put a snare on him. I was able to close his mouth, tape him up with electrical tape.  They bagged him."

The juvenile  American alligator, nicknamed Jaws, had been spotted by a variety of park-goers over the last few weeks, but he managed to hide away effectively in the lakeside reeds and other brush.  That all changed, though, around 2:00 P.M. Tuesday.

That's when Genovese, who was on the side of a creek that empties into Meadow Lake, responded to the same scene where NYPD and Parks Department officers had been dispatched.  Together, they made the capture, and Genovese said it was for the reptile's own good.

"Here, he would have died in the wintertime. There's no way he would have survived a New York winter," Genovese said.  "I was psyched.  I was determined to catch him.  I told these guys... 'If you don't catch him, I will,' and today was just the right place at the right time."

The NYPD says that the gator has been transported to Brooklyn Animal Care and Control, which will decide where it goes next.  Wherever that is, as Genovese pointed out, the alligator should ultimately be able to reach its full adult size of 10 to 15 feet.

It's not clear how the reptile ended up in the lake in the first place, although Genovese and others speculate that it was the pet of someone who could no longer keep it, and decided to let it go, rather than find a sanctuary or zoo that might take it in.