Lagoon alligator ‘safe right now’ — but if trapping botched, ‘he’s going to be one vicious animal’
Local wrangler “Alligator Bob” set traps, and the alligator at one point was spotted swimming near a duck in the water.
Crowds of visitors grew larger and more energetic Wednesday at Humboldt Park Lagoon as efforts resumed to capture an alligator that had been spotted in the water the day before.
On Wednesday evening at the Humboldt Park Boathouse — where only a few dozen alligator watchers had gathered a night before — a previously planned salsa night kept the gator company with a couple hundred partiers, a live band and dancing.
Across the lagoon, an additional gathering of about 150 people sat near the water hoping to catch a glimpse of the animal. At one point, a group formed around local wrangler “Alligator Bob” as he came to shore in his canoe to give an update.
He said Wednesday evening that the gator still had not been caught, despite his installation of five traps. Also, a flying drone was brought in to help search the lagoon.
Alligator Bob had set traps earlier in the day, and the alligator at one point was spotted swimming near a duck in the water.
“This animal is safe right now — we are hoping,” said Bob, an animal expert with the Chicago Herpetological Society.
“But if we lose him when we try to get him in the trap, he’s going to be one vicious animal; he’s going to do anything he can because he’s never been trapped before.”
Later, authorities erected signs warning of an “Alligator in the area” to warn people of the reptile in the water.
“Avoid alligator attack,” the sign reads. “Stay away from tall grass and water.”
Among the onlookers was Daniel Bahena, 24, who lives in the neighborhood and arrived at the lagoon about 8 a.m.
“I want to witness it for myself and see if they catch it,” Bahena said.
Joe Rowroy, 69, who also lives in Humboldt Park said “simple curiousity” drove him to the lagoon Wednesday.
“There’s a lot of people putting themselves in danger out here and I don’t like that. It’s going to take some time before they catch it,” Rowroy said.
Around midday Wednesday, Bob said he had to remove some turtles from the traps because they were eating the bait. The alligator, meanwhile, poked his head out of the water at the lagoon’s far east side.
Bob, who declined to give his last name, says that like any animal, after a while, the alligator’s instincts will kick in as it tries to protect itself.
Three traps were set in the lagoon to the left of the Humboldt Park Boathouse where Alligator Bob says the creature likely was dumped.
Each trap was set with different bait — one with chicken, another with a rat and the last with a fish (a bluegill).
Marcelina Rodriguez, 36, of Humboldt Park fears the alligator will escape the water.
“This is my community and we grew up here and it’s interesting to see an alligator out here. They’re not supposed to be here,” Rodriguez said. “I’m concerned because there’s a lot of people here with their kids. What if it gets out and it hides somewhere?”
Officers from the Chicago Police Department and Illinois State Police remained on site.
By later Wednesday, officers also had used crime scene tape to block off the piers where the traps had been placed. Later, tape was put in place around the entire lagoon.
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 a half-dozen in the past decade.
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. Tuesday 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.
Also paying attention to the spectacle was Gov. J.B. Pritzker.
“I’m not going to be swimming in the Humboldt Park lagoon,” the governor said at a morning news conference in the West Loop. “I’m not a big fan of alligators.”
Contributing: Nader Issa, Tom Ackerman, Tina Sfondeles