While we’ve hailed the return of native wildlife to the Bronx River in recent years, we might want to pause and salute one of the more exotic non-natives that have swum in the river, namely Jerry, a 300-pound California Sea Lion.
Back in 1927 Jerry was living in a pool at Albert Wadley’s Bronxville Nurseries up at Tuckahoe Road and Central Avenue. Captivity didn’t suit him, so one November evening he left behind his fellow Sea Lions Nell and Molly-o and made his way out of the tank in search of adventure.
Sensing perhaps that flowing water eventually makes its way to the ocean, Jerry set out for the Sprain Brook, and survived being bumped by a startled motorist as he crossed the road. (The shaken motorist had a difficult time explaining the mishap to a policeman skeptical of his sobriety.) Shrugging off his injury, Jerry splashed into the Sprain Brook and started downstream to the Bronx River.
Jerry somehow got past the first three waterfalls he encountered, but when he reached the dam at 182nd Street in today’s River Park, the dam’s 20-foot height gave him pause. But while he lingered behind the dam in the Bronx Zoo’s boathouse lake, a posse of pursuers was hot on his trail, armed with nets, nooses, and a supply of fresh fish. Jerry gratefully accepted the fish (the freshwater carp of the Bronx River being apparently not to his taste,) but adroitly slipped out of the nooses and nets. Finally an employee from the nursery improvised a Sea Lion trap out of upended rowboats and a screen door. Nabbed at last when he went for the proffered fish, Jerry the Sea Lion was hauled out of the water and trucked back to his Bronxville pool, little the worse for wear after his two-day trip down the Bronx River.
Stephen Paul DeVillo