Sewer Gators

The scaly monsters beneath your feet.


Sean Leake, Contributor

Sewer Gators are an urban legend that has grown over time. So, first let me answer the question you probably want to know. Do sewer gators even exist? I’m here to tell you that yes, sewer gators do exist and have been spotted before. However, most sewer gators are not as common as the movies make them seem. They are mostly there because of locals as well as tourists who wanted a cute little reptile that gradually got less cute so, they put them in open manholes or flush them away.

The legend of the sewer alligator goes all the way back to 1907 where a worker in New Jersey was bitten by a small alligator while cleaning the sewer. After this event there was a lot more sightings in New York and New Jersey. Newspapers with ads for baby alligators were very common in the 1930’s so, this is one main reason for the sewer alligator legend stretching across America. By the 1960s, sewer gators had found their way into numerous cartoons and books.

Even today there are still movies and cartoons with sewer gators in them. The gator legend also inspired the Leatherhead character, introduced in 1987, in the “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles” comics and video games. Flushed down the toilet as a pet, he becomes a giant mutant alligator who lives in the sewers. The strangest thing about this legend is that it is now illegal to buy and sell alligators without a permit in New York and New Jersey.

In the past couple of decades, New York has had lots of street-level sightings and rescues. Prominent ones included the four-foot gator pulled out of Kassan Lake in Queens in 1997, and the two-foot-long Caiman caught in Central Park in 2001. However, that’s not the only strange thing you will see in Central Park. So, the next time you’re walking over a pothole, just remember your reptile friends below.