A kayaker on Lake Michigan spotted something shocking early Monday morning: a 4-foot alligator paddling in the water nearby. The Chicago Tribune reports:
The kayaking fisherman, David Castaneda, reported the animal to Waukegan’s Animal Control, the Lake County News-Sun reported. The animal had its mouth taped shut, and initially reports described it as a caiman, but the Wildlife Discovery Center later confirmed it was indeed an American alligator.
Dave Bernier, a general curator at Lincoln Park Zoo, suspects someone brought it to the area recently and that the gator hasn’t had to endure a Chicago January.
“It would never be able to survive the winter here,” Bernier said.
You can see the kayaker’s video of the encounter below:
This isn’t the first time gators have been spotted in Chicagoland: another small alligator was captured in the Chicago River back in 2010. Given that these cold-blooded creatures can’t survive winters at these latitudes, it is likely they were pets that escaped or were released into the wild.
Alligators aren’t the only exotic animals that are purported to sometimes lurk in Lake Michigan. Persistent urban legends tell of occasional shark sightings (including a supposed 1955 bull shark attack). (None of these instances have ever been confirmed, of course, and experts consider the aforementioned attack unlikely to have ever occurred.)