A three-foot long alligator was seen in the Cooper River near Oaklyn at the start of June. Definitely a strange sight. But for residents who have lived in the borough for the past five years, it might jog a few memories of an action-packed month in Haddonfield in 2007.
Maybe, just maybe, Mayor Tish Colombi, said the caiman that was caught recently could be the progeny of the “alligator” that was spotted in Hopkins Pond five years ago.
“It could have floated out through the pipes into the Cooper River,” Colombi joked.
It’s been five years since an odd wildlife story caught the attention of the borough. On May 11, 2007, a passerby walking along Hopkins Pond saw the hard-to-believe scene of a three- to four-foot alligator thrashing about in the water at 9:50 a.m.
The citizen quickly called the police and the department notified the Camden County Department of Parks.
Sgt. William Draham, of the Camden County Park Police Department, responded to the caller. He quickly drove to the park and found the reptile feasting on a goose in the pond, according to The Sun’s story on the event.
The Haddonfield Police Department took the necessary precautions and closed off the public park around Hopkins Pond for the next two weeks. The entrances to the park were roped off with yellow caution tape and residents were warned to stay away from the pond after the sighting.
The park wasn’t reopened until May 25, 2007.
Other than the initial sighting, the alligator – or whatever the heck it was – wasn’t seen again.
“You know what it reminds me of? The Loch Ness Monster. They show that same picture we’ve all seen our whole life … with just the head sticking out,” Colombi said.
The mayor actually wasn’t even in town when the incident happened. She said she was on vacation at the Jersey Shore and didn’t know about the supposed sighting until she saw the front page of The Haddonfield Sun when she returned.
There aren’t exactly many protocols for the mayor in a situation when an alligator might be on the loose and in a pond, so Colombi said she let the police department handle the situation.
And what if there really had been an alligator terrorizing the pond?
“The police would have loved it, they would have pulled out the SWAT team,” Colombi said.
Police Chief John Banning said he remembered the call coming in, but there really wasn’t much the local department could down. A captain at the time of the incident, Banning said the department could only monitor the pond and inform the county parks department about the supposed incident.
But he said he hasn’t given the incident much thought since.
“It was a funny, interesting story that people like to hear about, but we really didn’t have a whole lot of involvement. You wonder about the credibility. Did somebody think it was a turtle, or some other reptile that they mistook for an alligator?” he said. “We never found anything, so we took it as unfounded.”
This reporter has seen enough horror movies to know that the alligator is most likely waiting, lurking, in the depths of Hopkins Pond.
Better think twice before going for your daily dip in the local water source