Crocodile spotted in Riverside Park
Washtenaw County Sheriff Dan Minzey told Channel 4 News that exotic pets get dumped in local lakes often. “There is probably a bunch of places these things can hide,” said Minzey.
We didn’t take those reports seriously until we got an urgent call from a resident from the Historic Eastside Neighborhood Association saying we needed to get over to Riverside Park, he just saw an alligator.
We weren’t really expecting to find anything, however this resident had told us about Ice Skating in Riverside Park and we didn’t think that was true either.
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Imagine our surprise when we saw what appeared to be an alligator sunning itself on the bank of the Huron River in Riverside Park. We observed the alligator for over an hour. It moved over to a small pond in the middle of the park. Then moved back to the river and headed down river.
We showed our pictures to world renown Alligator expert Dewey Niroj from the University of Michigan. Niroj said that the animal in the photos was a crocodile and not an alligator. Niroj said this was more worrisome as crocodiles are typically more vicious than alligators. Niroj said that our photographer was lucky considering how close we had gotten to the crocodile.
We asked Niroj how a crocodile could survive Winter in Michigan. Niroj said it can’t. Niroj said the crocodile could survive during the summer if it has some source of warmth during the winter months.
Niroj met us on Monday to walk along the banks of the Huron River. We walked from the Peninsular Park Dam to Ford Lake looking for evidence of the crocodile. Niroj could not find any evidence of the crocodile or any likely nesting areas.
Niroj had a 6 foot long temperature probe that he inserted in the water every several feet.
Niroj was shocked to find a source of warm water coming from the vacant Motor Wheel facility north of River Street. Niroj found the water to be over 80 degrees. He said the water was warm enough that if the crocodile could find it, the crocodile could survive the Winter. Niroj said a crocodile could easily go for two months without eating as long as it could stay warm.
Professor Niroj pointed to the vacant Water Street property just south of Michigan Avenue as a perfect summer ground for the crocodile. With the fence that prevents most humans from entering the property, the wildlife living there from rabbits and skunks, to numerous species of fish in the Huron River would be ample food for the crocodile.
Niroj estimated the crocodile is between 5 and 10 years old. From the photos he believes that the crocodile is about 5 feet long and weighs about 150Kg or about 300 pounds.
We called the City of Ypsilanti to see if they were aware of the Crocodile in Riverside Park. Officials told YpsiNews that the city had turned over management of the parks to the Community Development Corporation (CDC) and the CDC would be responsible for any maintenance and patrolling of the Parks.
We then spoke to City Ordinance Officer Don T. Dunno, who is also the part-time animal control officer. Dunno said that the city doesn’t pay him enough to capture crocodiles. Dunno frequently patrols the Water Street property and upon learning that the crocodile may be using Water Street as a hunting ground, Dunno said that someone else would be patrolling Water Street.
Washtenaw Deputy Sheriff Josh Wright told the Ypsilanti Courier in August 2007, that if a clear photo was taken of the animal, the Michigan Department of Natural Resources would search the lake. Wright told the Courier that the department would do its best to capture the animal un-harmed, but might have to “put it down,” as a last resort option.