Elusive Central Park Caiman Captured

ByABC News
June 22, 2001, 2:54 AM

June 22 -- The hunt for an elusive crocodile that's been lurking in New York's Central Park for almost a week is over thanks to a pair of quick hands, a flashlight, and a canoe.

A pair of reptile wrestlers volunteered their services to help capture the two-foot-long baby alligator Thursday night. The hunter found him in under a half an hour.

Mike and Tina Bailey, who work at the Seminole Tribe's reservation near Hollywood, Fla., came to New York City to help capture the caiman after hearing news reports.

Despite skepticism, city parks officials decided to give the young couple a shot.

Good thing officials gave them a chance to do their work. After a 15-minute search by canoe Thursday night, Mike Bailey was seen doing a victory lap around the Harlem Meer, a one-acre lake at the northern end of Central Park with the reptile in his hands.

"This one here was caught by my wife, Tina," Mike Bailey said at a press conference Thursday night. "She managed toslip her hand up about this close and catch him nice and gentle. No hooks, no ropes, nothing like that. We try to be as humane as possible."

Its a Crocodile Not an Alligator

The reptile was identified as a "spectacled caiman," which is a member of the crocodile family which is close to, but not exactly an alligator. Regardless, the reptile definitely has the chompers that could potentially harm someone.

"He has much sharper teeth than an alligator," Mike Bailey said. "He could take a finger from you."

Authorities believe that someone got him on vacation and left it in Central Park after he got too big. The city's parks commissioner said he would decide on a home for the caiman today. WABC in New York, and ABCNEWS.com's Melanie Axelrod contributed to this report.