PISCATAWAY, N.J. (PIX11) — A 4-foot-long alligator that’s kept Central New Jersey on alert — and to some extent on edge — for two weeks has now been captured, and is at an alligator habitat at a South Jersey zoo.
The capture has brought one mystery, about the whereabouts of the reptile, to an end, but leaves another: where did the growing, juvenile reptile come from? Investigators are left to answer that question, even as people who live on the street where the animal was captured remain surprised by it all, and praise the work of the officers who made the catch.
It happened at around 10:15 p.m. Thursday, when Officer Ian Paglia of the Piscataway Police Department responded to a 911 call. Somebody had spotted the gator on Second Avenue in the street in front of a home, sending police rushing to the scene.
In bodycam footage released by Piscataway Township, Officer Paglia and at least one other cop pursued the animal as he ran away. Paglia was able to step on the gator, and hold it down long enough to tie a tether around its neck.
The reptile was kept overnight Thursday in a holding cell at police headquarters, and was transported by New Jersey State Fish and Game officers to the Cape May County Zoo late Friday morning.
The alligator was first spotted on Aug. 25 near Ambrose Brook, a tributary of Lake Creighton, in Victor Crowell Park in Middlesex Borough. It was caught next to what had been a wet, marshy expanse between two homes, that had dried out in the last few days.
“I actually had an issue with my well,” said Steve Roy, who lives with his wife, Melissa, next to the wet expanse where the gator had apparently spent some time before being caught. “Part of my yard was flooded,” he continued. “It made sense that the gator made its way up this way.”
The marshy area where the animal seemed to have lived connects to some small streams, which in turn join Ambrose Brook, where the animal had first been seen, last month.
That distance is fairly far, as Edward Cremone, who lives one house away from the place where the gator was nabbed, pointed out.
“Where it was is probably two miles from here,” he said. “How it got here from Middlesex,” where the original sighting was, “is pretty long for a gator, I guess,” he said.
Gabby Salerno lives in the home on Second Avenue in front of which the gator was sighted and trapped.
“I heard they’re taking it to Cape May Zoo,” she said. “I’m happy that’s happening.”
One of the zoo’s administrators, Kevin Wilson, told PIX11 News that the gator arrived and was “feisty,” an apparent good sign of health.
Wilson also said that the zoo has a facility that specifically cares for alligators that were illegally kept by New Jersey residents. He said that every year, Cape May Zoo receives one or two of the reptiles for which it’s against state law to keep in a residence.
Usually, in mid-to-late autumn, the gators are taken to Croc Encounters, a sanctuary near Tampa. The alligator captured in Piscataway will be heading there, Wilson said. He said that for now, the alligator has not been given a name.