New Jersey law enforcement and wildlife officials teamed up as alligator investigators to capture a reptile running rampant across two towns over the last two weeks.
The Middlesex Borough Police Department chronicled the missing gator saga on its Facebook page.
The alligator, described as a “non-indigenous reptile” between 3 and 4 feet long, was first spotted in the Ambrose Brook at Victor Crowell Park in Middlesex County on August 23, according to the Middlesex Borough Police Department.
Middlesex County is located about 38 miles southwest of New York City.
The initial sighting prompted the closure of the park, which has since reopened to the public with no fishing or swimming allowed, Middlesex Borough police said in a statement Friday.
The police department, along with the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection, the state’s Division of Fish and Wildlife Conservation Police and several other agencies searched for the alligator until it was finally caught Thursday night in another town.
A Piscataway Township police officer made the big catch around 10 p.m. after a concerned citizen saw the reptile in the township’s Possumtown neighborhood, over 2 miles southeast of where it was first seen in the park, officials said.
Body camera footage from Middlesex Borough Patrol Officer Ian Paglia shows the alligator trying to make an escape on a street – but it is surrounded on both sides by the bright, flashing lights of the officers’ vehicles.
The reptile then runs off into the grass, with the officers following, the video from Piscataway Township shows. The officers hold the alligator in place with their feet as Paglia restrains it using a blue leash.
The alligator, which “appeared to be in good health with no apparent injuries,” was handed over to New Jersey Fish and Wildlife and then transported to Cape May County Zoo for a temporary stay until its transport to a Florida sanctuary, wildlife officials posted on Facebook.
The reptiles are sometimes bought out of state and brought into New Jersey illegally, according to wildlife officials.
“The owners often release them in local water bodies when they find they can no longer care for the animal,” New Jersey Fish and Wildlife’s Facebook post stated.