WAUKEGAN — A wildlife worker says a 4-foot-long alligator found in Lake Michigan near Chicago would’ve been lucky to live a couple more weeks.

The gator was spotted Monday morning by a kayaker fishing for salmon off the Waukegan shore. Chicago resident David Castaneda tells the Lake County News-Sun that was shocked by the discovery and wasn’t sure whether it was a real animal or a toy.

Animal control workers helped rescue the alligator, whose mouth was taped shut. It was taken to the Wildlife Discovery Center in nearby Lake Forest.

Center curator Rob Carmichael says animal wouldn’t have survived as Lake Michigan keeps getting colder. Carmichael says it is unknown how long it was in the lake and it will be checked out by a veterinarian.

Nicole Garza, a Waukegan animal warden, handles a 4-foot caiman that was discovered by a kayaker off Waukegan Harbor in Lake Michigan.

A Waukegan animal warden handles a 4-foot alligator that was discovered by a kayaker off Waukegan Harbor in Lake Michigan. | City of Waukegan

Editor’s note: This story was updated after wildlife experts determined the animal was an alligator rather than a caiman as originally believed.