Caiman captured in Central Park


A day after a television crew captured a Central Park caiman on videotape, a Florida wildlife worker and his wife used a flashlight, a canoe and their bare hands to capture it in the flesh.

Mike Bailey, a 23-year-old alligator expert, and his wife, Tina, who are from the Seminole Tribe reservation’s Okalee Village near Hollywood, Florida, grabbed the 60 centimeter (2-foot long) caiman — a member of the crocodile family — late Thursday night.

“He will be given a good home,” Mike Bailey said after the capture Thursday. “He will not be turned into a purse.”

The Baileys showed up at the park Thursday evening and briefly surveyed the lake where the creature had been spotted. They hopped into a canoe and shone a flashlight in the reeds while they circled the lake.

After about 15 minutes, they stopped the canoe at the lake’s northern end. Tina Bailey lunged into the reeds and emerged with the reptile in her clutches. There was no struggle.

Mike Bailey held the caiman overhead like a trophy and made a victory lap of the lake while people took pictures.

The reptile was first sighted on Saturday along the shore of the Harlem Meer, a one-acre (0.6 hectare) lake at the northern end of Central Park. It had not been seen again until Wednesday night, when it was spotted by a TV crew.

The animal, first thought to be an alligator, was identified as a spectacled caiman. Stern said it was probably a pet that was released after it got too big.

The parks Commissioner Henry Stern said the reptile’s new home — in the wild or a zoo — would be decided Friday.

Bailey’s publicist, Chuck Malkus, said Bailey does four shows a day at the Florida tourist attraction and could capture the reptile within two days.

Bailey said the caiman was probably about 2 years old. Adult caimans are about 2.5 meters (8 feet) long.