Alligator Found Swimming in Massachusetts, Hundreds of Miles From Natural Habitat

An alligator has been photographed swimming in a Massachusetts river—hundreds of miles away from its natural habitat in the southern states of the U.S.

On Monday, Joseph Matteson, from the Massachusetts city of West Springfield, shared a photo of the alligator in the Connecticut River with local station Western Mass News.

Matteson told the local outlet that he first spotted the alligator in the river during a walk last week. He saw it again two more times in the days that followed before taking a picture of the gator on Monday.

"I noticed something different in the water, and I looked down and it was an alligator," Matteson said about the sighting. He noted that Massachusetts is not the natural habitat for the creature, saying: "We mostly just see bass and fish, maybe a snake here and there."

The West Springfield resident said that he told friends about the sighting but struggled to get some of them to believe him. He later took them down to the river where they were able to see the gator, which Matteson estimated to be about four feet long.

The Division of Fisheries and Wildlife in Massachusetts told Newsweek that by Wednesday morning the alligator had not been caught, as the agency has limited capacity to search for the animal.

However, the agency confirmed that it is working with the Massachusetts Environmental Police and West Springfield Animal Control to capture the animal that is illegal to buy, sell, or keep as a pet in the state.

The agency told Newsweek that the alligator is likely to have either escaped from a local residence or "someone may have released the animal in the river because they no longer wanted it or realized it was not legal to own."

They added: "Unfortunately this alligator will not survive through the winter. It needs warm water throughout the year." The National Wildlife Federation's website states that alligators are generally found in coastal wetlands of the American southeast as far north as North Carolina, which is located more than 700 miles from Massachusetts.

Although sightings of alligators in Massachusetts are rare, there have been several sightings of gators across southern U.S. states over the last few months. The reptiles thrive in summer conditions but sometimes remain dormant in winter as the cool temperatures slow down their metabolism.

Earlier this month, a Texas homeowner called the police for assistance after she found a baby alligator swimming in her hot tub, with the local authorities joking that "the suspect resisted at first but was soon arrested and later released without further incident."

Meanwhile, in July an alligator in Florida approached a home in the middle of the night and refused to leave, with the creature thrashing and rolling in an attempt to avoid capture before being taken away from the property.

Newsweek has contacted the Division of Fisheries and Wildlife in Massachusetts for comment.

Alligator in river
A file photo of an alligator in a river. An alligator has been photographed swimming in a Massachusetts river - hundreds of miles away from its natural habitat in the southern states of the U.S. joe32780/iStock / Getty Images Plus