New York Officials Catch an Alligator at a Poughkeepsie Junior High School – Yes, Really

by Michael Freeman

Florida stories involving alligators while rare, do crop up now and then. However, you seldom hear about one from New York. Even more rare is the alligator in question appearing at a school, but last week, it happened.

The Poughkeepsie Journal reports last Tuesday, officials caught a five-foot-long alligator at Van Wyck Junior High School. While unclear as to how it ended up at the school, police suspect it belonged to a tenant in a nearby apartment. The Department of Environmental Conservation received a call from East Fishkill police at 1:19 a.m. Tuesday morning about the sighting. A nearby resident looking out her window noticed the alligator moving from a culvert into the school parking lot and called the police.

Cuccia, a 15-year DEC veteran, said this was the first alligator encounter he’s had since being employed there. Tuesday’s call was quite a shock, to say the least. “The first reaction is to make sure everything is basically all right, because … she was kind of in shock, and so were our officers because that’s not a normal activity here in East Fishkill, to come across an alligator,” Cuccia said.

Cuccia reports town police arrived at the junior high and found the alligator between the parking lot on the side of the school and a ravine at the edge of the property. Though usually empty, recent storms filled it with two feet of water.

Police then called the DEC to assist. Charles Eyler, a conservation officer with the state, arrived 15 minutes later. East Fishkill officers helped Eyler place a towel over the alligator’s eyes and tape its mouth shut. The DEC then took it to a local animal rehabilitation specialist for evaluation. It is uncertain what they will do with the alligator next.

How Common are Alligator Attacks on Humans?

With alligator stories appearing once in a while, one can’t help but wonder just how common attacks are on humans. While more prevalent than you might think, they’re typically not fatal.

Florida, Louisiana, and Oklahoma to a lesser extent are the places most often referenced when it comes to alligator attacks. Florida, in particular, seems to endure the most, with the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission reporting 413 unprovoked attacks from 1948 to 2019. In the last 10 years, there have been seven unprovoked bites per year on average that require professional medical treatment.

Nonetheless, in the same reported time frame, only 25 human fatalities resulted from alligator attacks. If one were to gauge your chances, if you live in Florida you’d have roughly a 1 in 3.1 million chance of getting attacked. Lousiana sports similar numbers, but most southeastern states nearby have significantly lower odds.

Overall, the chance an alligator will attack is astronomically low and the chance of it being fatal is much lower.