But every population boom has its side effects. Today, gators and humans cross paths at an alarming rate—and not just in the South. Thanks to careless pet owners, these big reptiles have caused trouble above and beyond the Mason-Dixon line. From a Chicago airport to a British bathtub, here are a few of the weirdest spots where live alligators have turned up.
1. A New York City Park
It’s been said that nothing fazes Manhattanites. Still, when a 4-foot-long female gator showed up in a Brooklyn’s Prospect Park in February 2023, folks definitely took notice. After rescuing her, the Department of Parks and Recreation noticed that that the reptile was extremely emaciated and lethargic, potentially due to the cold weather. But upon further examination by the Bronx Zoo, the gator—dubbed “Godzilla”—had a 4-inch-wide bathtub stopper stuck in her stomach. The animal eventually passed away in April 2023.
2. A Louisiana Living Room
One Sherlington, Louisiana, resident came home one morning in April 2016 to an uninvited houseguest. As he geared up for a meeting later that day, he spotted the intruder in his living room. “I saw something wave at me, and it was [an] alligator’s tail,” he told the press. His new roommate, a sizable male specimen, was driven outside by professional wranglers.
3. Emerging From a Storm Drain
Elsewhere in the Bayou State, another alligator made quite a scene in September 2015. That day, residents of LaPlace, Louisiana, witnessed an enormous adult alligator crawl out of a local storm drain. The behemoth proceeded to take a snooze on one family’s porch before wandering off. Judging by snapshots that onlookers provided, the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries estimates that the creature was anywhere from 9 to 10 feet long.
4. A Pennsylvania Grocery Store
Attention shoppers! Back in 2014, a shopper at a Carlisle, Pennsylvania, grocery store unwittingly released a pet alligator in the produce aisle. Its owner claimed that her son must have stuffed the foot-long reptile into her purse at some point. The creature was caught by an employee and returned to its owners in short order. No humans or gators were hurt in the process.
5. An English Bathtub
During a 2012 raid in Runcorn, Cheshire, police officers found way more than they’d bargained for. After busting into a suspected criminal’s home, law enforcement discovered illegal substances, four cobras, and a rattlesnake. The pièce de résistance was an 8-foot alligator thrashing around inside the bathtub. Once the homeowner was arrested, he turned over all six animals to specialist officers.
6. A Maryland Koi Pond
It was the reptilian equivalent of moving into a five-star restaurant: When one Brookeville resident dialed 911 and announced that an alligator was lounging in his backyard koi pond, he was met with skepticism. “The lady [on the line] said, ‘Are you sure?’ I said, ‘Yeah, I’m pretty sure it’s a gator,’” the man later recalled. After putting up a fight, the 3-footer was removed and given to the Catoctin Wildlife Preserve and Zoo—but not before it devoured a few hundred dollars’ worth of koi. “About one in 10 survived,” the man noted. “Rest in peace.”
7. A New England Bus Stop
In Connecticut, it’s illegal to own alligators, crocodiles, or caimans. Still, a young collar-wearing gator reared its scaly head at an Enfield bus stop in 2012. Although it was evidently someone’s pet, the owner of this tiny commuter never came forward. Apprehended by local authorities, the gator was given to a Massachusetts company that performs educational shows.
8. A Florida Baseball Dugout
In July 2015, a Port Charlotte, Florida-based minor league baseball team arrived at their home field to find a 10-foot alligator in the visitors’ dugout. The players understandably kept their distance until animal control hauled their wannabe mascot away.
9. Under A Congressman’s Car
In March 2012, a Florida congressman was attending a funeral on Merritt Island. As the service progressed, a 6-foot-long alligator made itself right at home beneath his vehicle. Fortunately for the politician, a trapper soon arrived to haul the creature back into the wild.
10. All Over NASA Runways
Merritt Island also happens to be home to NASA’s Kennedy Space Center. Though the Administration owns 46,000 acres of land there, only 6000 are used for its space program. Everything else has been set aside as a wildlife sanctuary. Not surprisingly, the alligators on the island don’t discriminate between sanctuary land and NASA’s campus.
“We’ve got gators blocking doorways, hiding under cars, [and] climbing fences,” the island’s deputy refuge manager has said. They also tend to complicate space-related activities. Before every landing, a special crew is tasked with chasing gators off NASA’s runways, where the big reptiles enjoy basking on the hot asphalt.
11. A Florida Jacuzzi
Down in Florida, when a gator clambers into somebody’s swimming pool, most police deputies don’t even bat an eye. But members of Vero Beach’s force were truly stunned to discover a live one at the bottom of a residential hot tub. The homeowner claimed that the alligator was already living there when he’d moved in. Instead of notifying the authorities, he spent an entire year feeding raw chicken to his backyard freeloader.
In 2013, local deputies served a drug-related warrant at his home. Although they didn’t find any drugs, the man was written up for illegally owning an alligator without a permit. Wildlife officers promptly relocated the critter.
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12. A Chicago Basement
In 2016, the Illinois Department of Natural Resources confirmed that a man in Lansing—a suburb of Chicago—had unlawfully kept an alligator in his basement for 26 years. The gator had been spotted in January of that year in the owner’s basement by an appliance repairman. “It was every bit of 200 pounds,” said an official with the IDNR. Unbeknownst to his neighbors, the alligator’s owner would let it out to roam around his backyard on occasion. The reptile enthusiast later faced misdemeanor charges for having illegally purchased the animal.
13. Propped Against the Door of a Florida Mobile Home
Something a lot scarier than the mailman came knocking on a mobile home door in 2016, in Plant City, Florida. The owner was terrified to find a 9-foot, 5-inch alligator climbing up his steps. By the time officials from the nearest Sheriff’s Office arrived, the intruder had propped its snout and forelimbs against the door—about a foot below the handle. A licensed trapper was called in to help get rid of it.
14. A Tampa Middle School
Nobody knows how a 7-foot alligator found its way onto the fenced-in campus of a Tampa magnet school. Still, at 7 a.m. one Monday morning in 2010, a science teacher spotted it ambling along in the parking lot. Thinking fast, he alerted his colleagues and made sure that every single student was confined to the cafeteria. School employees drove their guest down a hallway, where animal control then captured the gator without incident.
15. Under a Chicago Airport Escalator
The press nicknamed him “Allie.” On Halloween night in 2013, this juvenile gator was found cowering under an escalator near Baggage Claim 3 at O’Hare International Airport. Security footage later revealed that he’d boarded Chi-Town’s Blue Line train that night with his owner. For the next hour, the woman delighted in showing Allie off to her fellow travelers—many of whom posted pictures on social media. But once Allie’s owner arrived at the airport, she abandoned the little pet and caught another train. Thankfully, he was soon discovered by an O’Hare employee, and is now getting professional care from the Chicago Herpetological Society.
A version of this article was originally published in 2016 and has been updated for 2024.