It was a relatively warm February morning near Prospect Park Lake in Brooklyn, as children played and dog owners strolled by, enjoying a peaceful Sunday on a holiday weekend.
Sometime after 10 a.m., the tranquillity was interrupted by an unexpected sight: a four-foot-long alligator, which was noticed by a New York City Parks Department maintenance worker and pulled from the lake by members of the Parks Enforcement Patrol and the Urban Park Rangers, according to a Parks Department spokesman.
The animal was “in poor condition and very lethargic,” the spokesman said in a statement.
The American alligator was brought to Animal Care Centers of New York City in Brooklyn, said Katy Hansen, the organization’s communications director, and it was transported to the Bronx Zoo on Sunday. Max Pulsinelli, a spokesman for the zoo, said the alligator was still being evaluated and declined to comment further.
This is the sixth alligator that Animal Care Centers has helped to rescue in New York City since 2018, Ms. Hansen said. Two were found abandoned outdoors (in Brooklyn in 2018 and on Staten Island in 2019); three others, one on Staten Island in 2018 and two in Brooklyn in 2019, were turned over by the police, one by the Police Department’s gang unit, she said.
Jim Wellehan, an associate professor of zoological medicine at the University of Florida College of Veterinary Medicine in Gainesville, examined a photograph of the animal rescued from the park and said it appeared to be “significantly underconditioned” and “emaciated.”
Most American alligators thrive in bodies of freshwater that range in temperature from about 20 to 30 degrees Celsius, he said, or 68 to 86 degrees Fahrenheit. The temperature of the air on Sunday morning was in the low-to-mid 40s Fahrenheit. It’s unclear how cold the water was in the lake, which is seven feet deep and 55 acres in size. A spokesman for the Parks Department said that the lake temperature was not tracked.
American alligators can thrive as far north as South Carolina, Professor Wellehan said.
Alligators need a lot of room to stretch out and to bask, and Prospect Park Lake could comfortably accommodate a four-foot alligator, he said. “The size of the lake is fine,” he said. “The temperature of the lake is not so good.”
Officials believe the alligator had been abandoned by a private citizen. “People get these exotic pets while they’re still small thinking they’re cool and then, guess what? They grow,” Ms. Hansen said.
Typically, Animal Care Centers works to save rabbits, turtles and guinea pigs that have been dumped into the wild. “These animals don’t know how to get food, they’re prey animals for other animals in the wild and it’s illegal to abandon any animal of any kind,” Ms. Hansen said. “It’s also inhumane.”