Should the city close Humboldt Park to catch the alligator? A ‘croc doc’ says yes

Officials have considered closing off at least a part of the park, but are trying other options first.

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People gathered around the Humboldt Park Lagoon on Tuesday

People gathered around the Humboldt Park Lagoon on Tuesday after someone reported seeing an alligator or crocodile in the water — and the crowds have been coming ever since. But all those people are just making the alligator harder to catch, one expert says.

Nader Issa/Sun-Times

Thinking of joining the crowds of alligator fans at Humboldt Park this weekend to catch a glimpse of the green beast in the lagoon before it’s trapped?

How about you don’t?

You’re spooking it, said a Florida-based expert, one of the self-proclaimed “Croc Docs” called in to consult on how to capture or rescue the 4- to 5-foot alligator first spotted Tuesday in the park pond. 

“Stay home,” said Frank J. Mazzotti, a University of Florida professor who’s lending expertise to Chicago Animal Care and Control and to “Alligator Bob,” the volunteer local herpetologist who’s been the public face of the Great Chicago Gator Rescue.

In fact, one of the many options officials have considered is shutting down at least part of Humboldt Park surrounding the lagoon until crews are able to rescue the gator, according to city sources. 

For now, the park remains open; the lagoon, less so. Later Friday, parts of the lagoon were being fenced off in an effort to hem the alligator in.

“Alligator Bob” installs fencing in part of the Humboldt Park Lagoon.

“Alligator Bob” installs fencing in part of the Humboldt Park Lagoon Friday as efforts continued to corral an alligator spotted in the water on Tuesday.

Tom Ackerman/Chicago Sun-Times

Plans for an eventual closure of the entire park would likely come after all other options have been exhausted. A spokeswoman with the Chicago Park District couldn’t be reached for comment. 

“Let the trapper go about doing his business, and this will be resolved sooner rather than later,” Mazzotti said. “The crowds are really making that a much more difficult task.” 

For any of the traps baited with meaty goodies to work, Mazzotti said, “you have to have an alligator that is behaving normally.” That means one unafraid to surface.

”All these people are not helping,” Alligator Bob said. “The park district has offered to shut the park down. It’s not going to happen [yet].

”[But] all this sensation is not helping the animal any,” Bob said. “It sounds great to be having alligator naming contests. They’re selling T-shirts up there right now and handbooks. It’s like, really?”

Halting the fun in the bustle of the nearly 200-acre Humboldt Park during a week of stunning summer weather is easier said than done.

Potentially thousands of people can be expected to visit the popular West Side park on any given summer weekend. This weekend in particular, hundreds more are expected for the Latin Jazz Festival Friday and Saturday at the Humboldt Park Boathouse, which overlooks the lagoon.

And that’s in addition to the crowds that have converged around the lagoon hoping for a glimpse of gator.

“I just want to see it,” said Miriam Santiago, 55, who watched from a lawn chair Friday as authorities waded in the water to set up a barrier. “I’ve never been to Florida. It’s becoming a fantastic event, and why not?”

If it were up to Geraldo Robles, who was at the lagoon Friday, he would shut down all the activities until the reptile has been removed. 

“He could be anywhere. You have to proceed with caution: It’s a freakin’ alligator!” Robles said. “People are coming from all over just to yell, ‘it’s here!’”

“I’m sure the alligator is scared with all of this commotion but there’s not much that can be done to change that,” Robles continued. ”They gotta keep everything going. They can’t disrupt the neighborhood and all the planned events.

“But I would suspend all of this activity until the alligator is captured.” 

A duck swims along in the Humboldt Park lagoon Wednesday apparently unbothered by an alligator that’s been evading a gator-hunter.

An alligator swims in the Humboldt Park Lagoon, Wednesday morning.

Ashlee Rezin Garcia / Sun-Times

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