A rogue alligator that forced a park in Middlesex Borough to close for more than two weeks has been captured alive and is headed to a new life through a Cape May County Zoo relocation program.
Police responded to a call just after 10 p.m. Thursday from a concerned citizen who spotted the 4-foot alligator near Second Avenue in the Possumtown neighborhood in Piscataway, said Gene Wilk, spokesman for Piscataway Police Department.
“Many officers from the afternoon and night squads responded and the alligator was subdued and restrained by Patrol Officer Ian Paglia until the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection’s Fish & Wildlife Division took custody of it,” Wilk said in a press release.
Body camera footage captured the moment officers finally tracked down the alligator Thursday night on the road in front of a residence. As several officers surrounded the alligator, it scrambled onto a nearby lawn before one officer placed his foot on the reptile’s tale to prevent it from going any further, according to the video.
Footage shows the officer moved his foot onto the reptile’s jaw to keep it closed while he pulled out a leash and secured it around the alligator to ensure it couldn’t get away while waiting for wildlife officials to arrive.
The capture came after officials in neighboring Middlesex Borough said they thought they may have shot and killed the reptile. Prior to Thursday night, there had been no confirmed sightings of the alligator in or near Victor Crowell Park in Middlesex Borough since Aug. 26, when an officer fired a single, nighttime shot at the reptile in the Ambrose Brook.
Officials believe the rogue alligator was living in the suburban waterways near the Piscataway-Middlesex Borough border since at least last month. It is unclear how it came to the area or if it was a pet that someone released. Alligators are not native to New Jersey.
“The presence of this alligator in our waterways posed a threat to the public safety of our community, which is our paramount mission as a police department,” said Middlesex Borough Chief Matthew P. Geist.
The reptile was relocated to the Cape May County Zoo, Geist said.
The Piscataway alligator, which arrived at the Cape May County Zoo early Friday afternoon, is not expected to be put on display, said general curator and supervising animal keeper Kevin Wilson.
Instead, it will be part of the zoo’s alligator relocation program and kept in a separate isolated area outside of the reptile house. Alligators in the relocation program are usually kept at the zoo until the fall, when Wilson drives them to Croc Encounters, a wildlife sanctuary in Tampa, Florida.
Victor Crowell Park in Middlesex Borough, where the alligator was spotted, has been reopened to the public, officials said. But, fishing and swimming are not still permitted.