A “very aggressive” three-foot-long crocodile was found inside a cardboard box left in the parking lot of a Melville office building Tuesday, officials said.
The unusual discovery was made at about 11 a.m. at 25 Melville Park Road following an anonymous call to the Town of Huntington Animal Shelter, according to Suffolk County SPCA Chief Roy Gross.
The worker who took the call was suspicious at first, Gross said, because hoaxes are not uncommon in their experience. But when the shelter employee went to investigate the box in the parking lot of the industrial area, it had a crocodile inside it.
Gross noted the crocodile was feisty, and difficult at first to corral. But the crocodile was safely captured and transported to the animal shelter before it was turned over to the Suffolk SPCA.
Since crocodiles and similar reptiles like alligators grow at a rate of one foot each year, Gross believes the fanged crocodile is 3 years old.
He speculated that its former owner had purchased the reptile when it was young but could not care for it as it grew older, and decided to abandon it. After several years as pets, crocodiles, like alligators, can become “very difficult to handle,” Gross noted.
The Suffolk SPCA chief has been vocal in recent months about the risks of owning dangerous reptiles. Long Island has seen a slew of alligators over the past two years. This year alone, the Suffolk SPCA has received at least four calls regarding the crocodilian species—which includes crocodiles, caimans, and alligators. This is the first crocodile discovery Gross can recall in years, he said.
Crocodiles and alligators are illegal to own in New York State.
The Suffolk County SPCA will be pursuing criminal charges, Gross said. If the person who left the reptile menace in Melville is identified and arrested, he or she could face charges of abandonment and endangering the public with a wild animal, which combined carry a penalty of one year in jail or a $1,000 fine. The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation could also charge the person who abandoned the croc with possessing an illegal reptile, Gross said.
A joint investigation by the Suffolk SPCA and DEC police officers has been opened, Gross said.
The Suffolk SPCA is offering a $1,000 reward for information leading to the arrest and conviction of whoever is responsible. Anyone with any information is asked to call the agency at 631-382-7722.
Gross said if the person responsible had called his organization instead of abandoning the reptile in the parking lot he’d consider it amnesty and would not be pressing charges.
“It’s unfortunate that people still get these animals illegally,” Gross lamented.