Scajaquada Jack revisited

News and analysis by Dan Telvock, Investigative Post's environmental reporter

About that five feet of sewer sludge in sections of Scajaquada Creek.

Yeah, I know, it’s gross, but I did find someone who has walked in it.  However, the details didn’t get into the main story about the badly polluted creek.

Enter Frank Poincelot, a former Buffalo animal control officer. I tracked him down and here is what was cut from the final edit of the main story:

Poincelot and his former colleagues were led on a wild four-day hunt for Scajaquada Jack, a four-foot caiman released into the creek in the summer of 2001. The caiman hunt garnered a ton of media attention. It got so bad that people were trying to catch the reptile by fishing with dead chickens over the Grant Street bridge.

The way Poincelot recounts the story, a rat lured the caiman out, which allowed animal control officer Chuck Loubert Jr. to lasso a dog snare around its neck. The next few minutes involved an intense struggle to reel the 50-pound caiman in while it launched into a death roll, dragging Loubert into the water.

“It was a total fiasco,” Poincelot said.

But then he said: “I had a crew of five officers who waded in that ugly creek for hours. When we were in there it really stunk and you could feel the real muddy, crappy stuff at the bottom.”

 Yes, Frank, that sure was crappy stuff. And it’s still there. Five-feet deep in some spots.

The caiman was delivered to St. Augustine Alligator Farm in Florida, but “it took me almost two months to get the permits to ship it,” Poincelot said.

Supposedly, Scajaquada Jack is still alive, but I couldn’t verify this when I contacted Jim Darlington, the farm’s curator of reptiles.

“I’ll have to look through ALL our records of our many caimans over the years to find the ONE with that background since that animal’s “story” didn’t really mean that it stood out among all the other caimans we’ve had or still have,” Darlington said in an email. 

But the zany tales of the Scajaquada don’t end with the caiman. We’ve got shopping carts, too. The shopping carts were such a nuisance that artist Julian Montague created an art project on his discoveries. He called the creek and its surroundings a “vandalism super site.”

To illustrate the problem, environmental activist Margaret Wooster, who has led Scajaquada cleanups for almost 25 years, recalled a volunteer crossing the creek bed littered with shopping carts. She didn’t realize the woman was walking on a bed of carts until she had fallen through and landed in the water.

“We’ve removed hundreds of shopping carts from Scajaquada Creek over the years during the river clean ups,” Wooster said at the Burchfield Penney event.

The cleanup volunteers convinced Tops market to add wheel locks to their shopping carts, which significantly reduced the number of stray carts.

There’s more grossness.

Alberto Rey, the SUNY Fredonia professor and artist whose creek exhibit drew wide acclaim this spring at the Burchfield Penney, said his work portrayed the creek as “attractive and repulsive at the same time.”

An example of the latter is his painting of a dead muskrat floating in the creek. “Muskrats can survive just about anything and here it was dead with all this debris on it,” Rey said.

A dead muskrat, courtesy of Alberto Rey.

A dead muskrat, courtesy of Alberto Rey.