SCHENECTADY — Surveillance at Steinmetz Park continues, but an aquatic visitor — if there is one — is running silent, running deep.
Schenectady police have kept a pole-mounted, solar-powered camera trained on the park pond since Monday, when a resident reported seeing an “alligator” in the muddy waters. The reported sighting became a big deal in the Goose Hill neighborhood.
The alligator theory became sci-fi — after a little sci-spy.
State environmental conservation police officers sent to Steinmetz on Monday found no signs of a reported five-foot-long alligator.
“With the aid of binoculars, the responding officers observed a large common snapping turtle with a 16-inch carapace/shell just below the surface of the water, which could have been mistaken as an alligator swimming,” read a news release issued by the Department of Environmental Conservation.
A second canvass of the pond’s edge revealed no tracks along the shoreline.
Lt. Ryan Macherone, a spokesman for the Schenectady Police Department, on Wednesday said nothing — no alligator, no turtle — has shown up on camera.
“The camera is still over there,” Macherone said. “If anybody sees anything, we certainly would call DEC back to re-evaluate it.”
If a creature is spotted, Macherone may take the call himself. “I would be the first one there if somebody said it’s there,” he said.
The pond was not a busy place Wednesday morning. A young man fishing on a side bank knew he wasn’t competing with an alligator for the pond’s bluegills, sunfish and bullheads.
“It was a snapper,” he said. “I was excited, though. I wanted to come down and catch it. There are a couple of snapping turtles in here.”
Mike Klonowski, owner of The Zoo Reptiles, Birds and Fish on State Street in Schenectady, has raised alligators in the past. He said DEC personnel called him about the alleged Steinmetz visitor.
“I said, ‘I have no problems coming and getting it, if you actually know where it is,'” Klonowski said. “I can’t spend the day walking around a pond digging things up to look for something that’s not there.”
Klonowski also said alligators have found homes in the Capital Region and other parts of New York state.
“I’m not going to say it’s impossible to get alligators; you can go out of state and get them in Pennsylvania and other places where it’s legal for anybody to buy them as long as you’re over 18,” he said. “Could you actually get your hands on one? By all means. Would it be legal to have it in New York state without a license from DEC that I renew every June? You can’t have one.”
Klonowski believes there was just a slight chance the Steinmetz swimmer was an alligator.
“I’d would more go along the lines of a turtle before a gator,” he said.
Klonowski said people who keep baby gators will watch them grow to huge sizes.
“I had a gator in my store that was close to nine feet that I grew from a size that would fit in your hand, it was a matter of inches,” Klonowski said.
“Are there people who have five-, six-foot gators here in New York state?” he asked. “Sure there are. I bred alligators in my store many years ago, until I got rid of my big ones. Now I have a small one on display, but it’s only like two feet.”
An alligator in a pond would never starve. Klonowski said mice, rats, small ducks, birds, fish and frogs would all be on the menu.
And while Klonowski believes a giant turtle has become the park’s latest celebrity, people should not be too anxious to find him.
“A big snapping turtle can take a finger off, can take a thumb off,” he said. “It could definitely take a nice chunk out of your arm or hand, without a doubt.”
Contact staff writer Jeff Wilkin at 518-641-8400 or at [email protected]