(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE CHICAGO TRIBUNE)
The male, 5-foot-3 alligator, weighing about 30 or 40 pounds, was captured around 1:30 a.m. at the northwest side of the lagoon, officials said. Alligator trapper Frank Robb, who was brought in over the weekend to replace a volunteer trapper, was walking along the shoreline when he heard the alligator and saw it in lily pads, its eyes shining.
When Robb spotted the alligator, the animal dipped down in the water. Robb was able to catch the alligator with one cast of hooks attached to a fishing rod.
He then reeled the alligator in, grabbed him and tied him up, he said.
“The second I put my hands on him, the hook fell out,” Robb said. The animal “put up a little fight” but was unharmed, he added, joking that when he’s asked how he catches alligators, he says “just barely.”
Robb said that he had little sleep overnight, and the alligator “was exhausted, too, I’m sure.”
At the news conference, the alligator was in a dark-colored box with a yellow lid until Robb took it out and showed it to members of the news media. The animal didn’t make any noises when shown off.
Kelley Gandurski, director of Chicago Animal Care and Control, said the alligator was in good health.
“Wherever he came from or however he got here, he’s a very healthy animal,” Robb said.
During the news conference, a large group of residents joined the flock of media present, hoping to see the creature.
Grant Farmer, of the Humboldt Park neighborhood, stood nearby, extending his arms over the television cameras to snap a picture of the alligator with his smartphone.
“I would walk around previously this week hoping to get a glimpse of him, but I wasn’t able to see him,” he said.
The capture was the culmination of a weeklong quest to capture the exotic animal, presumed to be a pet that someone had abandoned in the historic West Side lagoon. Officials started searching for it midday July 9 after people began sharing photos of it on social media and someone called the city about the animal.
“The Humboldt Park alligator has captured the imaginations of the entire city of Chicago and beyond and has united residents who have been following this story for the last week,” Chicago Animal Care and Control said in a release earlier Tuesday.
Video: Officials share details of alligator capture
Video: Alligator makes public debut
Robb said that even before he got the call to come to Chicago, he had been among those following the news about the alligator.
“Everybody’s got different blessings, this is mine,” Robb said. “This is what I’ve spent every day of my life doing for the last 24 years.”
Officials said they haven’t yet figured out where the alligator will go now that it’s been captured.
On Sunday, animal control officials closed the eastern half of the park and hired Robb, an alligator expert from Florida, as the search entered its second week. The closures, which included streets near the park, were done on Robb’s advice to make the area around the lagoon quiet and free from distractions, according to animal control.
Robb, who owns Crocodilian Specialist Services in Florida, “immediately began assessing the park and lagoon,” according to animal control officials.
At a news conference Monday afternoon, Chicago police asked people to stay away from the lagoon and keep noise to a minimum.
With the capture, joggers and dog walkers returned Tuesday morning to Humboldt Park despite a light rain.
Laura Shields, who was walking her 8-year-old Australian shepherd mix, said she was disappointed when she realized the park was closed Monday. “It was definitely a bummer,” she said. “I come to the park two or three times day.”
“Alligator Bob,” a volunteer with the Chicago Herpetological Society, initially led efforts to capture the alligator.
As the search continued, businesses tried to capitalize on the phenomenon and locals frequently visited the park to watch and celebrate the gator.