Rogue Alligator Forces Officials to Shut Down a NJ Public Park

Written by Jennifer Hollohan
Published: August 30, 2023
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Residents of Middlesex, New Jersey, got quite the surprise on August 23 after an American alligator was spotted in a local park. The sighting alarmed local officials, who have spent a great deal of time and resources searching for the cold-blooded animal. While the primary concern is public safety, there is another issue at play. 

New Jersey is far north from the standard alligator habitat. And, with fall rapidly approaching, the water temperatures will drop to low temperatures that the reptile cannot survive in. 

So, a multi-agency effort is underway to try and find the alligator. The local fire department even had to rescue a rogue drone, which got stuck in a tree during the search. 

There are multiple eyewitness accounts, including one person who saw the alligator drag a duck into the water and a local police officer. However, authorities have yet to capture the alligator. So, the city closed Victor Crowell Park for a few days out of an abundance of caution. Residents should avoid the area until further notice.

The estimated size of the missing alligator is three to four feet long, so it is likely a juvenile. Officials with Fish and Wildlife will reportedly attempt to catch it using a humane trap.  

Where Do Alligators Live?

American alligators (Alligator mississippiensis) have a broader habitat range than many people realize. They frequent fresh bodies of water from the Rio Grande in Texas to North Carolina. Alligators prefer marshes, slow-moving rivers, lakes, and swamps. 

This fearsome predator lives in ten states – Oklahoma, North Carolina, Arkansas, Mississippi, Alabama, South Carolina, Georgia, Texas, Florida, and Louisiana. But it does not make its way as far north as New Jersey. 

Additionally, alligators cannot survive long in saltwater environments. They lack the necessary salt glands. 

Large menacing American alligator Alligator mississippiensis in the wetland and marsh at the Myakka River State Park in Sarasota, Florida, USA

Male alligators can get up to 12 feet long and 1,000 pounds.


How Big Do Alligators Get?

Male and female alligators have a long, armored body and flat tail. Males average 11.2 feet (3.4 meters) but can get as large as 12 feet (3.6 meters) long. The smaller females average 8.2 feet (2.6 meters) long. And males can get as heavy as 1,000 pounds (454 kilograms). 

They propel their large bodies through the water with their lengthy tail. However, they also have webbed feet that help them in the water and on land. Their back feet have four toes, and their front feet have five. The largest alligator ever recorded was 13 feet 3 inches long and weighed a stunning 1,380 pounds! However, there are also unconfirmed reports of alligators over 17 and 19 feet long.

Alligator okefenokee swamp

American alligators used to be endangered but now have a significant population across ten states.

©Leafyplant at the English Wikipedia, CC BY-SA 3.0 – License

The photo featured at the top of this post is © Ernie Hounshell/

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About the Author

Jennifer Hollohan is a writer at A-Z Animals, where her primary focus is on gardening, mammals, and travel. Jennifer has over twenty years of writing experience. She holds a Master of Arts in Anthropology from the University of Colorado at Boulder, which she earned in 2005, and is a Herbalist. Jennifer lives in Colorado with her family. She loves hiking, admiring wildflowers, gardening, and making herbal tea.

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