Alligator Bob is on the case of Chicago park gator

Javonte Anderson and Marie Fazio
Chicago Tribune

CHICAGO — The search for an alligator spotted in Chicago’s Humboldt Park Lagoon entered its second day Wednesday, as police warned people to leave the gator trapping to a volunteer animal wrangler known as Alligator Bob, who was checking traps he set Tuesday night in hopes of catching the animal.

Authorities had been called to the lagoon around noon Tuesday, several hours after people started reported seeing the reptile there and sharing photos of it on social media.

Authorities Tuesday afternoon “independently confirmed the alligator is in the lagoon and state reptile specialists” said it was 4 to 5 feet long, police spokesman Anthony Guglielmi said in a tweet Tuesday. Officials had hoped to trap the animal Tuesday night and have it “relocated to a zoo for veterinary evaluation,” Guglielmi had said.

Alligator Bob, a volunteer who declines to have his full name used and who works with Chicago officials to capture wayward exotic animals, set three traps Tuesday night baited with raw chicken drumsticks but was still searching for the animal Wednesday morning. He said Wednesday he believes the Humboldt Park animal is an American alligator.

Officials said they believe someone had the alligator as a pet and recently released it into the lagoon.

The goal is to “trap, remove or relocate” the gator — not harm it, Alligator Bob said Wednesday morning at the lagoon.

In the hours after police tweeted out confirmation that the animal was in the lagoon Tuesday, crowds of people flocked to the park hoping to spot it. But Wednesday, police warned that people shouldn’t try catching it on their own.

After being seen around 4 a.m., the alligator was spotted again about 10 a.m. by a Tribune photographer.

As the search continued Wednesday morning, Tim Snitko stood on the veranda of the Humboldt Park Boathouse with his right hand cupped over his face as he peered out into the murky water.

“I would hope to see it,” he said.

Although some people chose to look for the alligator from a safe distance, others tried to get a closer look at the animal.

Scott Priz squatted at the corner of a dock near the water’s edge. “I know alligators are thought of as being generally dangerous, but this is a scared animal.”

While some people came hoping to catch a glimpse of the alligator, others came asking questions.

“Have they caught it yet?” a Chicago Park District employee asked his co-worker. “No,” the co-worker replied.

This is far from the first exotic animal located in Chicago waterways.

Last year, a kayaker found an abandoned alligator near Waukegan.

In 2010, a gator was caught with Alligator Bob’s help in the North Branch of the Chicago River near Belmont Avenue. When an alligator was caught in the South Branch in 2008, it was billed at the time as the first alligator found in the river. But a Tribune article from 1902 reported that one was found that July near what’s now Roosevelt Road.

In 1953, two boys from Wheeling found an alligator in the Des Plaines River while they were turtle hunting, according to reports from the time, including in the Tribune.

The lagoon was in the news last month, when Chicago Park District officials put up signs warning people to stay out of the water because of toxic blue-green algae.