The search for the gator roving the Passaic River is over.
Authorities captured the alligator around noon today after launching a boat to get close enough to the creature.
The alligator was spotted this morning by a fisherman, Luis Acosta, who called police around 8:20 a.m. after he saw the alligator about 15 feet away while he was fishing for carp.
Photos: Roving alligator caught in the Passaic River in Elmwood Park
“I noticed something moving,” Acosta said. “I thought it was a snapping turtle.”
He then thought it might be a floating log. But suddenly, “I saw his whole body. His legs, his tail. I said, ‘wow.'”
He was relieved when authorities also spotted the alligator. “If that alligator goes inside the water, they’re going to think I’m crazy,” he said.
The report of the exotic resident of the Passaic set off a frenzy of activity in the area, with police, fire and wildlife officials rushing to the scene – followed by people who heard about the creature and wanted to get a look.
Authorities were along the riverbank near the borough middle/high school this morning looking for the creature with binoculars. They tried to snare the gator, but he got away.
Elmwood Park Police Chief Michael Foligno moved press and a handful of bystanders across the street as authorities began to try and get close to the alligator in two boats. He also asked the news helicopters to move back.
“The noise may spook the gator,” he said.
Foligno said officials from the state Division of Fish and Wildlife have identified it as an American alligator between 4 and 7 feet long.
He believes the alligator was someone’s pet that grew too big and the owner dumped it in the river. Alligators are not native to the region.
Usually the department gets reports of deer and coyotes, he said. “And we’re into the reptiles now,” he joked. “We’re very urban but we want to maintain that rural feel.”
DPW Director Scott Karcz, who previously worked in the pet industry, saw the alligator through binoculars. He said it has “a pretty substantial head.”
Mayor Richard Mola, watched the river this morning, at times spotting a moving alligator head, with several media crews, as well as other local officials. He has served the borough for 44 years, said he’s never seen an alligator in the river before.
“We’re going to have an animal show here,” he quipped. “This kind of water would be good for him.”
Lauren Dent, 26, and her friend recently moved to Elmwood Park and stopped by the river around 11 a.m. after hearing about it from someone else.
“When she said a gator, I thought she was joking,” Dent said. “We just wanted to see if we’d see anything.”
She said she was glad authorities were taking precautions.
“I would have been scared to be that fisherman,” she said. “I didn’t realize there was that much wildlife around here.”
A few cars driving past on River Road saw the TV cameras and police cars and stopped to ask what was happening. They looked shocked to hear it was an alligator.
A 33-year-old Elmwood Park resident said she grabbed her camera and drove to the river after seeing the news on Facebook. After about two hours, she still hadn’t spotted the gator. Even though she has spent years boating, fishing and crabbing on the Hudson River, she’s never seen anything like this.
“I think that’s probably why I’m standing here for so long,” she said. “It’s the highlight of the day,” she added.
Anyone with information regarding who may be responsible for releasing the alligator is asked to contact the Elmwood Park Police at 201 796 0700. Callers may remain anonymous.