Picture the scene: you’re taking a leisurely stroll through Brooklyn’s Prospect Park, there’s a winter chill in the air, and you pass by a lake, smiling at the kids playing nearby. Then you notice something strange. Is that an alligator being removed from the lake by park workers? An alligator in New York City in late February? How did that happen? Well, dear reader, it’s actually much more common than you might think.
Millions of alligators live in the warm, swampy waterways of south-east America; in fact, 1.3 million reside in Florida alone. You’ll also find the terrifying predators in Louisiana, Georgia, Mississippi, North and South Carolina, Alabama, Texas, and Arkansas. The ancient beasts tend to eat fish, birds, and turtles, but have also been known to attack humans on occasion.
Living alongside the gator community
In the Sunshine State, humans encountering alligators is fairly common — it stands to reason given their sheer numbers — but the odds of you actually being attacked by one are fairly low. You see, alligators spent centuries being hunted by humans for sport and for profit, so they tend to try to avoid us as much as possible. People should still be careful, though, especially if wading into the gator’s territory.
Take great caution
You see, if a human is swimming in a lake, or standing at the edge of a marsh, an alligator may see them as a threat to their young. Equally, given their opportunistic hunting style, they may see the chance of an unexpected meal. In this scenario, the reptiles are notoriously stealthy, with the ability to camouflage themselves in water and move quickly on land too.
Florida is used to gators; New York very much isn’t
All this is to say, Floridians are very aware they are living alongside gators and are generally pretty darn vigilant. People who live in colder places such as New York City are much, much less accustomed to encountering the sharp-toothed terrors, though. Despite this, stories of gators showing up in unexpected places in the Big Apple pop up with slightly unnerving frequency!