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No. 9: Winter 1979

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The Hazards Of Sewer Exploration

A modern bit of folklore tells of dis-carded pet baby alligators flushed down toilets into the sewers of New York. There they grew fat on rats and confronted startled sanitation workers. Is there factual basis for such wild tales? Coleman states that he has compiled a list of 77 encounters with erratic or out-of-place alligators for the period 18431973, including one 5.5-foot specimen found frozen to death in Wisconsin in 1892. Only one in the 77 is a sewer specimen, but it is from New York City. The New York Times of February 10, 1935, reported a 125-pound alligator, almost 8-feet long, pulled out of a snow clogged sewer on East 123rd Street. Obviously half-frozen from the cold, the animal snapped weakly at its captors. "Let 'im have it!" the cry went up. The only known sewer alligator perished un der flailing snow shovels. No one could explain how the alligator got into or survived in a New York sewer.

(Coleman, Loren; "Alligators-in-the-Sewers: A Journalistic Origin," Journal of American Forlkore, 92:335, 1979.)

From Science Frontiers #9, Winter 1979. � 1979-2000 William R. Corliss