Myth Check! Do Alligators Actually Live in Sewers?

Sewers are scary places. They’re dark and dangerous and contain lots of foul and revolting things like garbage, rats, and obviously, sewage. Ew.

However, there is also a myth out there that the sewers contain colonies of alligators.

An Urban Legend

This urban legend has been prevalent for decades. It has a variety of origin stories, most of which all go along the same lines. The tale often starts off with a young boy receiving a baby alligator as a birthday present from Florida. He doesn’t know what to do with it, so he takes it to the toilet and flushes it.

Many years pass, and the young boy grows into a man. Then, one day he reaches inside a sewer grate, looking for a baseball he has lost, and it happens. His arm is ripped off by the same alligator, now fully grown, a rapacious monster hungry for blood.

Pet Alligators Back for Revenge

Even if they story you’ve heard isn’t exactly the same, they often follow a similar pattern. They usually involve people going to sunny Florida and bringing back alligators as pets.  Then they get rid of them once they grow too big, only to be terrorized by them later.

According to Jan Harold Brunvand, a folklorist, the story has gone mainstream in a variety of different forms. This, of course, includes horror movies and TV shows. The New York City Bureau of Sewers frequently receives queries relating to alligators in the sewers, and frequently denies them.

A Grain of truth?

Robert Daley authored a book that was published in 1959, titled, ‘The World Beneath the City.’ This book contained, among other things, an interview that most certainly stood out. The interviewee claimed that he was at one time, during the 1930s, the sewer commissioner.

He also alleged that during his time in charge, he’d overseen a campaign to rid the sewage system of alligators. This would appear to be evidence that the myth is true. It indicates that even if alligators were no longer a menace, they had been at one time.

It also suggests there was a need to initiate an entire program in order to eradicate rogue sewer gators. But this story isn’t definitive proof of sewer-dwelling alligators at all.

When the matter was investigated further, it was discovered that the man claiming to be sewer commissioner was a liar. Yes, he was simply a man who loved to spin outrageous yarns.

Just the Facts

The fact of the matter is that there are no alligator colonies living in our sewage systems. In actuality, alligators would not survive for very long in the sewers. They simply aren’t environments that would nurture an alligator’s survival.

New York City is, nevertheless, a massive place, with a lot of strange happenings going on. It is possible that some resident at some point did flush a baby alligator down the toilet. It just simply wouldn’t have survived down there. In other words, the myth about giant alligators living there is simply that, a myth.

Similar claims have been made with reference to sewers in France and London, but they too have turned out false.


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