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Chicago alligator stays out of sight as effort to capture beast enters 4th day

Marie Fazio, Chicago Tribune on

Published in News & Features

CHICAGO -- The Chicago alligator had gone to ground Friday morning, with no confirmed sightings of the animal since early the day before as attempts to capture it entered a fourth day.

Chicago police and animal control officials were called to the Humboldt Park lagoon around noon Tuesday, hours after people first reported seeing the reptile there and shared photos of it on social media.

After three days of unfruitful attempts, the team trying to capture the animal has reached out to biologists and other experts who recommended a machine used underwater to mimic the sound of a baby alligator. The machine, which was being lent by someone in "the Southern states," was supposed to arrive in Chicago by around noon Friday.

There has not been a confirmed alligator sighting since around 2 a.m. Thursday, according to volunteer animal catcher Alligator Bob, who declines to have his full name used. Several people watching from the Humboldt Park Boathouse have sent in "Loch Ness"-quality pictures, he said.

Fluctuations in temperature over the past few days may account for the lack of sightings. It is also possible that the alligator was injured or sick when he entered the lagoon, he said.

People have flocked to the West Side park to try to see the alligator, with Chicago Park District workers putting up snow fencing around the lagoon Thursday to keep onlookers away from the water.

Although more than a day had passed since a confirmed sighting, the novelty and excitement of an alligator in the lagoon has yet to wear off. A man riding along the lagoon's outer path with his two children stopped Friday morning to take a picture near one of several danger signs placed Wednesday to warn of the alligator.

"Make an alligator face," he told his kids as they bared their teeth and raised their hands to perform a gator chomp.

Around 11 a.m. cries erupted from a group gathered watching a trap on the eastern side of the lagoon. Several people claimed they saw the alligator near the trap.

"We saw it like the blink of an eye," said Deandre Jackson, who took off work Friday to investigate the Humboldt Park alligator hype for himself.

He said it looked like a fish or turtle surfacing until the eyes were visible, then it was clear that it was the alligator.

Jackson expressed dissatisfaction with Alligator Bob's tactics. Others in the group agreed.

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"What are we holding him accountable to, what are the standards?" Martinek said. "Can we get someone on payroll?"

Although the alligator remained at large, Martinek, who has been at the lagoon looking for the gator every day after work, said that there are many positive outcomes of the reptile situation.

"I think it's nice that all these new people are discovering our park," she said. "It's nice to see people excited and neighbors talking and meeting people in the community that otherwise wouldn't have come here. Hopefully they'll be back."

Up at the boathouse earlier, a small crowd, including a man in a dinosaur suit who swayed to salsa music playing faintly from the building, watched the water from above.

Jose Ramos, a resident of Belmont Cragin, has been out at the park every day except Thursday since the alligator was first spotted.

Ramos said he wondered why no one has been called in from the Florida Everglades or another swampy area.

"If you're going to waste resources, waste them properly," Ramos said. "Get the professionals out here to take care of this. One person can't do it, that's evident already. This is the fourth day and we're still in limbo."

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