Alligator us
Members of the Parks Enforcement Patrol and Urban Park Rangers capture an alligator from a lake in Prospect Park in the Brooklyn borough of New York City, U.S., February 19, 2023. Image Credit: AFP

NEW YORK: A "very lethargic" alligator was captured in a New York park, city officials said Monday, likely released by its owner far away from the species' warmer habitat in the southeast United States.

The reptile was spotted Sunday morning in Prospect Park, a favorite place for Brooklyn residents to picnic and stroll with their pets, especially when winter temperatures are in the 50s Fahrenheit (10-15 Celsius) like over the holiday weekend.

Rangers captured the four-foot-long (1.2 meters) alligator, which was "found very lethargic and possibly cold shocked," New York City Parks said in a statement.

It added that such urban public spaces "are not suitable homes for animals not indigenous to those parks" and that their release, while illegal, could also "lead to the elimination of native species and unhealthy water quality."

The alligator was later transported to the Bronx Zoo for rehabilitation, the statement said, adding that "thankfully no one was harmed."

The last publicized discovery of an alligator in New York was in June 2001 when authorities, the press and curious residents spent five days following the pursuit and capture of a stray caiman in Central Park.

New York's Urban Park rangers respond to about 500 animal health reports a year.