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Search resumes for alligator in the Humboldt Park Lagoon

‘Alligator Bob’ set new traps for the reptile that’s avoided capture since being spotted Tuesday.

“Alligator Bob,” an animal expert with the Chicago Herpetological Society
“Alligator Bob,” an animal expert with the Chicago Herpetological Society, sets alligator traps in Humboldt Park Lagoon on Wednesday.
Ashlee Rezin/Sun-Times

Local wrangler “Alligator Bob” set new traps Wednesday morning in hopes of capturing the reptile spotted a day earlier in the Humboldt Park Lagoon.

Three alligator traps set overnight were empty Wednesday morning.

City and state authorities spent all day Tuesday at the park after several witnesses reported seeing the animal swimming through the water.

Though there was some initial skepticism and only a general guess as to how an alligator could end up in the lagoon, Chicago police confirmed Tuesday evening that the animal spotting was real.

“We’ve independently confirmed the alligator is in the lagoon and state reptile specialists say [it’s] between 4 and 5 feet long,” CPD spokesman Anthony Guglielmi tweeted. “The reptile will be humanely trapped tonight and relocated to a zoo for veterinary evaluation.”

Authorities believe someone likely dumped the gator once it became too big to keep as a pet.

The alligator sighting was first reported to authorities about 7:20 a.m. in the 1400 block of North Humboldt Drive, said Jenny Schlueter, a spokeswoman for Chicago Animal Care and Control. Chicago police, animal control and Illinois Conservation Police responded to the call.

An animal expert with the Chicago Herpetological Society tries to draw out an alligator in the Humboldt Park Lagoon on Tuesday.
An animal expert — known as “Alligator Bob” — with the Chicago Herpetological Society tries to draw out an alligator in the Humboldt Park Lagoon on Tuesday.
Ashlee Rezin/Sun-Times

Alligator Bob, a volunteer alligator expert who declined to give his last name, coordinated with local and state authorities to help with the rescue efforts. He rode a canoe around the lagoon several times throughout the day in hopes of rescuing the gator. Alligator Bob said the animal is likely scared and could die if left alone in this unfamiliar environment for an extended period of time.

“This is not something to worry about. It’s not going to jump out of the water and attack people,” Alligator Bob said. “Everybody here is five or six feet tall. That gator is five or six inches tall. The animal is scared out of his wits.

“It’s not big enough to look at humans as food,” Alligator Bob said. “It’s not like the movies where they attack you and drag the lady into the pond and stuff.”

An alligator surfaces in the Humboldt Park Lagoon as authorities tried to capture it on July 9, 2019.
An alligator surfaces in the Humboldt Park Lagoon as authorities tried to capture it on July 9, 2019.
Rencie Horst-Ruiz @ Ren’s View Photography - www.rensview.com

A carpenter by trade, Alligator Bob has been a volunteer since the 1970s with the Chicago Herpetological Society. He’s been part of several successful local alligator rescues — by his count, about half dozen in the past decade.

Alligator Bob said he wasn’t sure how long it would take to rescue the Humboldt Park gator. It could be caught in a trap by the morning, or it could take days to find the animal, he said. Once caught, the animal would be examined by veterinarians and treated for any illness or injury. The gator had not been rescued as of 9 p.m. Tuesday.

Onlookers had been speculating since the morning if the reports of the alligator were true. By the evening, dozens gathered around the lagoon hoping to catch a glimpse. Some witnesses said they saw the creature lift its head above water. One person pointed from the shore and said, “Look, did you see it?”

People gathered around the Humboldt Park Lagoon on Tuesday
People gathered around the Humboldt Park Lagoon on Tuesday, July 9, 2019, after someone reported seeing an alligator or crocodile in the water.
Nader Issa/Sun-Times

Lizeth Lopez reported seeing the alligator surface from the water in the afternoon.

“We saw him. He’s there,” Lopez said. She gestured with her hands to show the creature was a few feet long. “Ah, I can’t come here anymore ... but now, with these things here, you never know. We’ve got to be safe. We’ve got to make sure they get this thing.”

A photographer, Rencie Horst-Ruiz, was working near the lagoon about 6:30 a.m. when she noticed the alligator. She snapped several photos of the gator.

“We were shocked and worried for the small children and animals in the area,” Horst-Ruiz said.

An alligator surfaces at the Humboldt Park Lagoon
An alligator surfaces at the Humboldt Park Lagoon.
Ashlee Rezin/Sun-Times

Schlueter, the Animal Control spokeswoman, said the alligator “will probably be scared and try to hide.”

“If this is a pet alligator, it was probably kept in an aquarium and released” into the lagoon, Schlueter said.

Jilian Figara and her daughter went to the lagoon to rent a swan boat but found the lagoon had been closed for weeks. A sign said people were not allowed in the water due to blue-green algae that is dangerous to humans and animals. An employee at the lagoon said the order has been in effect for a month and a half.

People watch on from the shore as authorities search for a loose alligator in the Humboldt Park Lagoon.
People watch on from the shore as authorities search for a loose alligator in the Humboldt Park Lagoon.
Ashlee Rezin/Sun-Times

This is not the first instance of an alligator loose in the Chicago area.

In October 2018, a 4-foot-long alligator whose mouth had been taped shut, was rescued from Lake Michigan near north suburban Waukegan. Authorities said the alligator wouldn’t have survived another couple weeks.

Within one month in 2011, two alligators were found swimming in the Chicago River. One, about 3 feet long, was found near the 3200 block of North Rockwell Street. Authorities said the alligator was likely a pet that someone turned loose. A slightly smaller alligator was found weeks earlier about two blocks north.