Kayaker Tracks Down Gator After Four-Month Search in Massachusetts River

by Matthew Memrick

A kayaker recently tracked down a gator four months after residents spotted in it a Massachusetts river.

Jeremy White located the small gator in the Westfield River and pulled it into his kayak. USA Today reported that the man closed the animal’s mouth, covered its eyes, and brought the end of a search that started back in August.

“We are grateful for Jeremy’s efforts, as this 4-foot, cold-blooded reptile would not have survived the cold Massachusetts winter,” the Mass. Division of Fisheries and Wildlife stated on Facebook.

Officials believe the four-foot-long gator was a pet. Sadly, there are other recent occurrences of people finding gators in the northern United States. About two hours away east in Brockton, officials found a four-and-a-half-foot gator in Waldo Lake back in 2005. Additionally, a two-foot gator was also on the loose.

Massachusetts, Gators Don’t Mix

White told WWLP that the animal was “freezing cold” and “its eyes were closed” when he found it.

The 26-year-old said the gator didn’t put up a fight which was “a little surreal” to the man.

Gators need warm water, and winter temperatures have dipped below freezing a few times. Newsweek reported that sometimes the animal remains dormant in winter as the cool temperatures slow down its metabolism.

Consequently, American alligators live in the southeast United States. Louisiana has the most significant estimated number. They can survive as far north as North Carolina. North Carolina is about 700 miles south of the bay state.

Residents spotted this particular alligator back in August swimming in the river. White, whose idol used to be the late Crocodile Hunter Steve Irwin, was one of several looking for the reptile. In early October and earlier this week, people spotted the alligator. Ultimately, those sightings renewed the search efforts.

Mass. Wildlife officials told WWLP that several kayakers attempted to catch the animal. However, it was White who found and captured the animal. He then called state wildlife officials, who took it to West Springfield Animal Control. That group found it a home with Rainforest Reptile Shows, an organization that travels the area teaching kids about these creatures.

Elusive Gator Lived In River For Awhile

On Monday, West Springfield resident Joseph Matteson shared a photo of the alligator in the Connecticut River with local station Western Mass News.

He saw the gator on a walk on three occasions. Additionally, Newsweek reported on the loose reptile then.

“I noticed something different in the water, and I looked down, and it was an alligator,” Matteson said about the sighting.  

At that time, wildlife officials said they did not have the resources to catch the gator. Soon after, they worked with Massachusetts Environmental Police and West Springfield Animal Control to capture it.

It is illegal to buy, sell, or keep gators as a pet in Massachusetts.