Gators in the river! The Oklahoma River!
It’s been almost 34 years since the last reported sighting of an alligator in the North Canadian River.
In October 1977, The Oklahoman reported Jim Ellis was fishing the North Canadian River on a Saturday near the E Reno Avenue bridge, when he saw what he thought was a snake. He grabbed it and it turned out to be a 29-inch alligator. He turned it in to the Del City Police Department where it spent some time confined to a wash basin until it was sent to the zoo.
It was thought to have been a pet released into the wild.
This was not the first time alligators were found in the river. The Oklahoman Archives record several instances of alligators being seen.
In 1918, the city was building a new sewer near S Walker and the Canadian River, and J.W. Linch, a watchman for the Boardman Co., noticed activity in the water and along the banks.
Seeing alligators, he shot at one, and the July 11, 1918, newspaper article said, “He managed to get it to shore after a fight and then finished its career.
“There are five or six living in the river. The one killed measured two feet from nose to tail and was of the gulf variety. Others in the river are larger, Mr. Linch says.”
It was believed these alligators were the descendants of an alligator that escaped Wheeler Park Zoo when it flooded in 1916.
In May 1947, a man was fishing near Western and SW Choctaw (now SW 7) when he saw a 6-foot alligator. Capt. Clifford Holloway of the Oklahoma City Fire Department was dispatched to the scene, but he was unable to catch the alligator. It was believed that the alligator had washed downstream during high water.
According to the state Wildlife Department website, alligators generally are found in southeastern Oklahoma and are thought to be unable to survive the colder temperatures in central and northern Oklahoma.
It seems alligators have been sighted every 30 years or so in the part of the North Canadian River now known as the Oklahoma River.
Perhaps the rowers and boaters who use the Oklahoma River should keep a weather eye out — that floating debris might just be full of teeth.