People caring for a small and sickly alligator that was found at O'Hare International Airport over the weekend hope it is on its way to a full recovery, but they still have no idea how it got there in the first place.
The alligator, which is less than 2 feet long, was found by a maintenance worker under an escalator in Terminal 3 on Friday. Officials for both O'Hare and the Chicago Police Department said they have no new information on how or why the exotic animal -- nicknamed "Allie" by police -- got to the bustling airport.
"It's just a random occurrence," said police spokesman Jose Estrada. A criminal investigation was never opened, he said.
"Thankfully it didn't result in the animal or anyone else being hurt," Estrada said.
The alligator though, is sick and struggling with poor nutrition and metabolic bone disease, said Jason Hood, president of the Chicago Herpetalogical Society, which is now caring for the creature. He guessed Allie is between 2 and 3 years old.
"He's in pretty bad shape and was probably not being fed a proper diet," Hood said. "It would have been harmless to anyone who found it."
A photo was circulating on Twitter that showed a man on the Blue Line, which goes to O'Hare, holding an alligator that looked like Allie, according to CNN.
"There was someone photographed on the train right before with an alligator, so the assumption is they brought it," Hood said.
Hood said the nonprofit will rehabilitate Allie at least until April and then send it to an alligator farm out of state. Illinois weather conditions are not ideal for alligators, which typically live in much warmer climates.
It is illegal to own an alligator, according to the Illinois Dangerous Animals Act, but he could have been purchased illegally online or in a state such as Indiana where it is still legal to own alligators, Hood said.
"It's just the unfortunate side of our world that there are people who don't treat animals properly," he said.
Not only is it illegal but also a dangerous idea to buy an alligator as a pet, according to the society. While the animals stay small and can be contained in an aquarium for a few years, they will eventually grow up to four feet long with large teeth and dangerous tendencies.
This isn't the first time alligators have turned up in the Chicago area.
In 2011, Buffalo Grove Police found a 3-foot long alligator abandoned on a residential street and in recent years alligators have been found in the Chicago River, Fox River and in a golf course lake in Naperville.
Hood said the society takes in about three alligators per year.