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It's Not an Alligator, It's a Caiman...and It Was in Cooper River

Oaklyn resident Glenn Hudson checked out a tip from a friend and came home with a 3-foot-long, non-native reptile he plucked from the nearby waterway.

Update, 4:50 p.m., June 6: Patch mea culpa! Please read

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SOUTHERN NJ -- What's 3 feet long, looks like an alligator and was living in the Cooper River until about midnight Thursday?

If you guessed "a caiman"—a diminutive member of the order crocodilia that is native to South and Central America—then either you're a really good guesser or you're friends with Glenn Hudson of Oaklyn.

After all, it was Hudson's friend Evelyn Taylor who spotted the reptile while kayaking behind the Hopkins House on South Park Drive in Haddon Township, and called him up.

"I've had a passion—and compassion—all my life for reptiles, amphibians; underdog animals," Hudson says. "I was worried that if I didn't get it someone would view it as a threat," Hudson says.

The potter/photographer/horticulturist spotted the yard-long beast, and then ensnared it by grouping small hooks onto a fishing rod.

"My guess is it was let go," Hudson says. "It has a fat tail, which means it's well-fed.

Yet a cold-blooded, tropical animal would never last a proper New Jersey winter, he says—and that's why he took it home and called the Philadelphia Zoo. They brokered a deal to send it to the Maryland Reptile Sanctuary through a third party, to whom Hudson will deliver the caiman Sunday.

"I'm a big fan of reptiles and I couldn't miss this opportunity," he says.

According to the Born Free USA database, there have only been 13 incidents involving reptiles in New Jersey since 1999 (excluding this one); none occurred within Camden County.

matt dougherty June 02, 2012 at 02:13 PM
Watch out for the piranhas ! Eat 'em up yum yum !
Anne Carroll June 02, 2012 at 04:23 PM
Thank you EVELYN TAYLOR and GLENN HUDSON for rescuing this very lucky reptile. And shame on whomever dumped their pet to let it fend for itself. This alas is the fate of many pets whose owners simply tire of them and let 'em loose. In fact, our caiman friend may have feasted upon abandoned cats or dogs who ventured too close to Cooper River. In any case, our temporary visitor was well fed and is now on its way to a better home.
sonja carroll June 02, 2012 at 04:50 PM
awesome comment! so many people believe that reptiles can't feel hunger or pain. I wish i was lucky enough to come across a reptile like this! it would be the experience of a lifetime! way to go guys for rescuing the critter!
Richard Ehling June 02, 2012 at 05:48 PM
I join the reptiles of the world and THANK YOU, Mr. Hudson, for this humane gesture and your respect for all life.
IVANIVONVICH June 02, 2012 at 06:47 PM
This is the problem with idiots who release their unwanted pets into the wild (and this includes cats & dogs too). The tropical animals do not survive the first winter, and those who native origins resemble the area that they are released become pests, "Invasive species". There are proper ways to rid yourself of a no longer wanted pet, but these persons think that it will involve the death of their former pet. Too bad that all pets can't be tagged with a microchip to iddentify the point of sale and to whom the animal was sold. Then they could recieve a fine for their stupidity.
JCaliva June 02, 2012 at 07:23 PM
I also am so very grateful that Mr. Hudson did the right thing and rescued this innocent (yes, innocent) beautiful reptile from a fate brought on by an irresponsible fool. These people don't care for these magnificent creatures at all, "washing their hands" of these animals into a cetain death. I am so tired of people being able to acquire exotic animals...this should be outlawed in all 50 states. What is the question to ask here??? what is best for the animal? People, humans, have always had a tough time answering this question...I call it selfish. You can call it what you will.
Rick OBrien June 02, 2012 at 08:31 PM
You folks should consider joing the League of Humane Voters. This is a mainstream national organization with state chapters. Their mission is to effect legislation that protects animals.
Dan Holland June 02, 2012 at 09:36 PM
Ummm, it's an American Alligator, not a caiman. Better do a bit more fact-checking, Collingswood Patch.
frank June 02, 2012 at 10:01 PM
would make a nice belt
Matt Skoufalos (Editor) June 02, 2012 at 10:03 PM
Left my herpetology degree in my other pants, Dan. How can you tell what it is?
james n. ryse June 02, 2012 at 10:27 PM
exactly! snouts all wrong for a caiman!(marking also!)
david slater,esq. June 02, 2012 at 10:35 PM
Nice to see someone who cares and did something about it. Reminds me of the day I removed a fish hook and fishing line strangling a Pelican in Mexico.
Gordon LaPean June 03, 2012 at 01:41 AM
It is definetly an american alligator.....I am from Georgia and see them all the time.
Dan Holland June 03, 2012 at 01:55 AM
Crossbands on a young caiman (most species) are lighter-yellowish/tan/brown. Ground color on caiman is brownish, not black like on alligator. Snout of alligator at nares is slightly wider, end of snout slightly more rounded than in caiman. Superciliary region (above eyes) slightly different on alligator than on caiman.
Karen Seritsky June 03, 2012 at 02:21 AM
People get these critters to keep as pets, until they get too big for the apartment, cost too much to feed, or become a danger to the family. Then they get dumped out, regardless of the inappropriateness of the environment or the damage to the area's food chain. Right now, in the Everglades, Florida is fighting to keep the indigenous species there alive, as people toss out pythons and boas they can't keep. If it finds a mate, it will reproduce and thrive in those climates.
Matt Skoufalos (Editor) June 03, 2012 at 02:34 AM
Dan, I'd love to update the article with your assessment -- can you e-mail me at matt.skoufalos@patch.com with some credentials, and I'll make the adjustment? Thanks for reading!
frank June 03, 2012 at 05:09 AM
nobody here watches the show Swamp people
Phoenix J June 03, 2012 at 05:09 AM
That's an alligator. Should have driven him down to Gator Land in Florida. Missed a good vacation.
john June 03, 2012 at 10:24 AM
100% gator, not caimen......fyi
Laurie Santerre June 03, 2012 at 02:21 PM
I wonder if people who reside in areas not diginous to certain living things gave their home address and were denied ownership if that animal could not survive there would help stop this problem....
Michael Len June 03, 2012 at 04:51 PM
In the first photo, I swear that gator is smiling. People.....Get a life, does it matter what the reptile is? I mean, it's not like we're talking poiitics.
Chris Ivins June 04, 2012 at 06:05 PM
I am a herpetologist based in South Forida. This shows how biased and starving for stories the media is. It is an American Alligator, not a Caimen.. Do a little bit of fact checking in the future. Chris
Kevin V June 04, 2012 at 06:13 PM
It actually is an alligator. I have worked with both alligators and caimans, they look very different from each other. Caimans don't have that coloration that is on this guy, except the black caiman but that species has some distinctive head structural differences. Also even St. Augustine Alligator Park, which I am sure knows the differences between the two considering the have every species of crocodilian, says it is an American Alligator.
Matt Skoufalos (Editor) June 04, 2012 at 06:34 PM
I hardly think that's fair, Chris. There's no bias here other than us taking at his word our source, a reptile enthusiast, who has gotten a second opinion in the hours since this was published. And if you take a look around the site, you'll see we've got plenty of news to sustain us. But we plan on publishing an updated story soon with some corrections. Thanks for reading.
Anne Carroll June 05, 2012 at 01:06 AM
Dear Chris: Truly, we Collingswood folks are not biased and starving for stories. [Trust me, we've got plenty of stories way more juicy to report on.] Ok, so maybe it's not a caimen but rather an alligator. The thing to focus on is several people took a real interest in this abandoned wild creature's welfare and did something about it. Abandoned by whom? It's owner. May I suggest this is where you might best direct your ire. Wild animals should never be purchased to be pets. In any case, Collingswood folks realized the 'gator's' predicament, rescued it and found it a good home. With all due respect, please give us credit for that :)
Andrea Conti June 05, 2012 at 12:01 PM
Andrea Conti Ann that was a great reply. The poster replies he is a herpetologist based in South Forida. What a CROC , ( no pun intended)
Robb C. Sewell June 05, 2012 at 09:31 PM
Starving for stories? I think not. There are plenty of stories that the media can and does cover. But this is a story about a reptile that was callously abandoned in a river, and about two people who cared enough about this creature to do something about it. I know both Evelyn and Glenn and I'm grateful that they cared enough to do something and I'm grateful to Matt for covering the story. I am also grateful for the community of Collingswood that showed great interest in this creature and its plight.

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