Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Alligators on the Loose in Chicago and NYC



chicagobreakingnews - Bob the alligator wrangler was back this morning on the North Branch of the Chicago River looking for an elusive gator.

So far -- nothing.

On Monday, he set five traps baited with chicken drumsticks, then carried them atop his canoe as he paddled into the river. Watching him throughout the day along the river north of Belmont Avenue was a small crowd -- kids were even selling lemonade -- and Bob grumbled about the difficulty of trapping an alligator with other people around.

"What if he swam upstream, what if he swam downstream? With all the commotion yesterday ..." Bob said this morning, adding it may take someone with a cell phone camera to spot the creature and lead him to it.

Also known as "Alligator Bob," Bob has volunteered with the Chicago Herpetological Society for about 20 years and has rescued more than 70 alligators from Illinois and Wisconsin waterways, he said.

That gives him a celebrity status he doesn't want, which is why he doesn't give out his last name. The last time he did, Bob said, he got calls from people all over the country asking him to take in their animals.

"I am just a volunteer," he said, noting that he took a day off work to go gator trapping.

It was the second time this month Bob had been called out to the same spot. On Aug. 6, he rescued a 2½-foot-long alligator he believes was once a pet, just like the one he tried to catch Monday. This time, officials called him after Sararose Krenger and her family spotted a 3- to 5-foot gator basking in the sun along the riverbank as they took a boat ride on Sunday.

"My father said, 'There's an alligator,' and we said, 'Pretty funny,' but there really was an alligator there," Krenger said. "We thought it was pretty cool.

"He was chilling there, there were ducks floating by. ... He was eyeing the ducks and moved his tail a little bit and decided not to go for it. The ducks were swimming closer, so we didn't know if they were just messing with him."

Krenger said that as they sat watching the alligator about 5:30 p.m., they called police, who responded along with animal control officers.

The next day, Bob went to work.

"If I don't get it, the animal is going to die," Bob said, adding that alligators won't survive Chicago winters.

Hoping to be there when he caught it, a small audience gathered Monday on the river's west side walkway. Every now and again, a passer-by would join the group and ask, "Has he caught him yet?"

It has become a sort of summer ritual for Bob as owners release their pet alligators to the river when they get too big, about 2 to 3 feet long.

"This one probably bit the owner," Bob said.

Bob said that after he catches the alligators, they spend about three months in isolation to make sure they don't have any diseases. He then contacts organizations in Florida that are willing to take in the coldblooded crocodilians.

"Why kill the poor thing? It is a living animal," Bob said.

As Bob spoke, Jeff Nolan roamed the waters on his 15-foot boat trying to locate the alligator. He was fishing in Bridgeport on Monday morning when he got a call from a friend telling him about the alligator, so he decided to head upriver to try to catch the animal.

"I almost did," Nolan said, but it got away. "It would have given me bragging rights for the rest of the season."

Bob, annoyed at Nolan, asked him to leave the animal alone and mumbled that he was scaring the alligator The waters need to be calm for the alligator to come out and feed, Bob explained.

By 3:30 p.m., Bob had set his five traps along both sides of the river. If the traps were underwater, the alligator would drown, he explained, so he made sure they stayed afloat.

"Hopefully, it likes chicken," Bob said.

On the shore, a crowd was gathering again after it thinned during lunchtime. Three young entrepreneurs, ages 8, 10 and 11, were busy selling cold lemonade and Rice Krispies treats for 25 cents each.

Jacob Berry, 10, said his mother's friend had given them the idea. She had also taken photos of the gator, and they were debating how much to charge for the prints.

"$5?" asked Ryan Lin-Peistrup, 11.

"No, 50 cents," said Caleb Berry, 8, Jacob's younger brother.

"$1.50 -- that's fair," said Jacob, settling the issue.

Jacob left to get the photos as Ryan spotted his little sister walking toward him with their dad, who was trying to persuade Ryan to let his little sister help out.

"Fine," Ryan said. "But she won't get in the press."

**********

2-Foot-Long Alligator Found Hiding Under Car In Queens

cbslocal - The old urban legend about alligators living in the sewers of New York City gained some cred Sunday after a 2-foot-long alligator was spotted under a car in Queens.

The alligator was discovered around 3 p.m. on Newtown Avenue and 29th Street in Astoria. Animal Care and Control experts aren’t sure how the alligator got there.

Spokesman Richard Gentles says the alligator would likely go to a licensed rehabilitator or reptile sanctuary.

“He is in pretty good health and just seems to be taking it all in,” Gentles told 1010 WINS. “He’ll be kept in a quiet place so he’s not stressed out.”

He says the agency rescues two to four alligators, crocodiles or caimans in the city every year.

In 2006, authorities captured a 15-inch alligator at an apartment complex in Brooklyn. And in 2001, a 2-foot-long caiman was found living in a lake in Central Park.

It is illegal to keep them in New York City homes.

Alligators on the Loose in Chicago and NYC

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