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Monday, January 21, 2008

Myth Busting Monday - Alligators in the Sewers

MYTH: Alligators in City Sewers

This favorite supposes that colonies of alligators are milling about the NYC sewer network, released there by people when they realized the cute baby 'gators they bought in Florida do, in fact, grow bigger. Experts say it's unlikely an alligator could survive in the cold of New York, however, let alone the toxic bacterial stew of its sewers.[source]
I am a big super hero fan and there have been occurrences where a hero finds himself in a sewer and ends up battling sewer gators, so the whole notion of alligators in the sewers has definitely entered into pop culture.
Looking into the history behind this myth I found that there have been 13 stories in the New York Times related to alligators in the sewer.
The New York Times itself lists 13 stories involving NY alligators between 1905 and 1993, 12 of which are in a veritable rash between 1927 and 1942. All 13 reports total up to 16 gators found in the New York area, dead or alive, in the sewers or elsewhere, most of them fugitives from various zoos and private collections. One 1933 report gives a little extra credence to the idea that Benny Profane (the Pynchon character) could possibly get paid to hunt alligators -- it reports a squadron of riflemen being organized to hunt down an alleged 6 escaped alligators.[source]
I think it is more believable that the alligators found were escapees rather than victims of the porcelain whirlpool. One of the news stories that I found that I enjoyed was from 1935.
An article dating back to 1935 helped feed the legend. According to New York Times on Feb. 10, 1935, two boys found a six-foot-long alligator as they were shoveling snow into a manhole near East 123rd Street in Harlem. They dragged the animal out, but ended up killing it [by beating it with their snow shovels] after the alligator tried to attack them.[source]
Even though it may seem plausible that there could be colonies of alligators surviving in the NY sewer system there some major factors that makes this story dead in the water (quite literately).
For all its power as a rumor, though, the alligator colony in the sewer couldn't survive for long. The NYC sewers get too cold -- alligators survive well at temperatures from 70 to 98 degrees Fahrenheit. Plus, they don't do so well when exposed to salmonella and E. coli as are commonly found in sewers.[source]

What are your thoughts about this myth, let us know in the comments

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Anonymous said...

I agree that Gators do not like the cold although the sewer system is quite warm and as far as the environment tell the operators and workers at the waste water treatment plants that the gator will not live in the poop ponds and they will they will you a much deferent story, like the 3 that are living quite well in conway, S.C. one of them is nearly 16 feet and lives and swims in the poop ponds there

Anonymous said...

actually they tested the nyc sewers in the middle of winter on monsterquest on the history channel and it was 97 degrees thats cold? lol crocks dont get the diseases you mentioned infact the experts now say they can tolerate sewage just fine tons live in floridas sewers also they now kn ow gators dont need sunlight heard of gator farms? they grow them in total darkness infact gators grow faster in the dark to me gators in newyork seems very probable its the largest and oldest sewer in america dating back to the 1700s monsterquest found enough food warm weather trash made into nests that gators could indeed live and reproduce in the nyc sewers that go far down as 300 feet