nyc alligator
An alligator was found Thursday in the Inwood neighborhood of Manhattan, New York City. Pictured: A prop alligator went into a New York City sewer drain during the launch of the Swamp People "Taste Of The Bayou" food truck, March 28, 2011. Donald Bowers/Getty Images for History's Swamp People

Upper Manhattan residents got an unexpected visit Thursday from an alligator taking an evening stroll along 205th Street in Inwood. Officers from the New York Police Department's 34th Precinct found the alligator crossing Ninth Avenue. Officers snapped a photo before the reptile was taken into custody and turned over to Animal Care and Control.

Officers initially described the creature as an alligator, inadvertently launching a debate as to whether it was indeed an alligator or a crocodile. One woman tweeted at the NYPD 34th Precinct account, "I think that might be a crocodile," to which the police station responded, "Oh, ok. Then it makes much more sense that he'd be on 9th. That's more of a crocodile hangout than an alligator spot...thx."

It is difficult for a casual observer to tell the difference between the two. The easiest way to tell them apart is that alligators tend to have a more rounded nose than crocodiles, and their lower teeth are usually not visible.

Crocodiles, which are an endangered species, and alligators do not fare well in cold weather. Residents speculated on Twitter that the reptile had either hitched a ride from the South or lived as someone's wild pet. However, it remained illegal to own alligators or crocodiles in New York state.

Urban legend has it that gators have long lived in New York City sewers, which was confirmed by a 2010 spotting in Astoria, Queens. Officers apprehended an 18-inch alligator, which crawled out of an overflowing storm drain and found refuge under a parked car, the New York Post reported.

In 2013, the Department of Environmental Conservation found an alligator along the Peconic River, near the Connecticut Avenue boat ramp, in Calverton, on Long Island, Newsday reported.

It wasn't immediately clear if the alligator found Thursday was jaywalking.