HOLLYWOOD, FLA. (WSVN) - Joe DiMaggio Park in Hollywood was closed for several hours after a crocodile was spotted a little too close for comfort to nearby homes, raising an overwhelming amount of safety concerns among area residents.
A pictures of the scaly intruder show the animal swimming in the park, Sunday afternoon.
Speaking with 7News, area resident Harel Pinhasi described the moment he first spotted the reptile.
“We looked, and I saw a head,” said Pinhasi. “I was just driving around, like, in my golf cart with one of my friends in the park, and then we looked in the water, ’cause we usually just look for, like, fish.”
Pinhasi said he saw the creature at around 12:45 p.m.
“I took a closer look and then saw it, and then I just drove away and just told my mom,” he said. “Pretty scary,” said Pinhasi.
The family called it into authorities.
Residents of the Harbor Islands community were warned about the crocodile through an email, explaining that it “seems to have gained access through The Estates intercoastal seawall…”
“This is not something that we have ever had to worry about in this park,” said nearby resident Sharon Athanasiou. “It’s not a comfortable place to be in anymore.”
On Monday morning, the gates of the park were back open, leading her to believe it was safe to go for a walk.
“I thought I was hallucinating because this croc that was supposed to be gone, was in the water about 2 feet away from me,” said Athanasiou.
She grabbed her dog and took a video, but stopped when she noticed the crocodile was on the move.
“It was going in the direction of where this toddler was and I screamed, ‘Pick up your baby, pick up your baby.'”
The American Crocodile is a federally protected animal. People who live in the area don’t want it harmed, they just wanted it protected in a safer place away from their families.
“He’s a beautiful animal, but he does not belong here with people and children… Come on, you know,” said concerned resident Dina Volovitz. “We’re very scared.”
The reptile was seen slightly moving through the grass of the park and surveillance captured it in the neighborhood as well.
“This will be dangerous because people want to see, you know this thing swims so fast,” continued Volovitz. “I think
Joe DiMaggio has the responsibility to close the park, it’s a responsibility to us, not only as residents but to the people that want to come here with their kids.”
Even with the warning signs, not all of the gates to the park were closed on Monday, and some said they’re trying to get more answers from state agencies.
“If you don’t put a big sign, it’s really a lack of respect towards the humans that want to take care of their kids and families,” she added. “It seems there has to be a very big concern, or so sad a death for them to come do something about it.”
The crocodile hasn’t been spotted since around 1 p.m. The park was reopened to the public at around 7 p.m.
“I’ll definitely let nature be nature because I have no choice, but I’m not going to let my children walk around here, nor my
little dog… I wouldn’t let a dog off the leash, make a good dinner,” said another woman at the park.
City of Hollywood officials have notified Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission about the crocodile.
Copyright 2023 Sunbeam Television Corp. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.