8 local exotic animal sightings that show Humboldt Park alligator not so rare

  • The African savannah monitor lizard was captured in 2009 in a Libertyville backyard.

      The African savannah monitor lizard was captured in 2009 in a Libertyville backyard. PAUL VALADE | Staff Photographer

  • Last October, a kayaker in Waukegan Harbor found a four-foot alligator swimming with its mouth taped shut.

    Last October, a kayaker in Waukegan Harbor found a four-foot alligator swimming with its mouth taped shut.

  • A young black bear rests in a tree in Mount Morris in 2014 but later made its way into the suburbs.

    A young black bear rests in a tree in Mount Morris in 2014 but later made its way into the suburbs. Associated Press

  • Waukegan Animal Control employees captured a Burmese python in 2012 after someone discovered the 12- to 15-foot animal in a bush.

    Waukegan Animal Control employees captured a Burmese python in 2012 after someone discovered the 12- to 15-foot animal in a bush. Photo courtesy of Waukegan Police

 
 
Updated 7/10/2019 2:42 PM

Local alligator wranglers are trying to capture a 4-to-5 foot alligator that's swimming in Chicago's Humboldt Park Lagoon, but it's not the only surprising critter found out of its element in Chicago and the suburbs.

Alligators make occasional appearances prowling around the area, and so do monitor lizards, exotic snakes and cougars. Many are believed to be pets that were released, but some remain mysteries to this day.

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Here are some other adventures with exotic animals:

• Two men walking their dogs in 2010 in Buffalo Grove were stopped cold by a 3-foot alligator on the sidewalk in front of them. Nicknamed "Chewy" by animal control officers, the 3-foot-long, 20-pound alligator was sent to live with an "experienced herpetologist" in Illinois.

• A security officer trapped a small alligator under a trash can lid after it was spotted in 2013 under an escalator in Terminal 3 at O'Hare International Airport. The Chicago Transit Authority later released images of a woman with what seemed to be the same alligator riding the Blue Line and getting off at the airport. The gator, which was in poor health, was taken to the Chicago Herpetalogical Society. And an Oakbrook Terrace woman was charged with reckless conduct and cruelty to animals.

• Last October, a kayaker in Waukegan Harbor found a four-foot alligator swimming with its mouth taped shut. With no ability to eat and the Lake Michigan growing colder, the animal was on borrowed time, said experts who took it to the Wildlife Discovery Center in Lake Forest.

• Waukegan also was where workers picking up trash found a potentially dangerous full-grown Burmese python in 2012 near the harbor. The coldblooded animal was not aggressive, but it took three Waukegan Animal Control employees to lift the 12-to-15 foot-long animal into a van.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

• An African savannah monitor lizard was captured in 2009 in a Libertyville backyard, where residents periodically had seen it sunning on the patio for weeks and had grown appreciative of the rodent control the lizard provided.

• Cougar sightings are almost routine in the suburbs -- but unproven. Reports of the animals, which can weigh 240 pounds, have popped up last year in DuPage County and in Streamwood, and in 2004 and 2008 in Lake County. Many people were skeptical -- until a cougar was shot in Chicago in 2008.

• A young black bear -- likely the same one spotted across northwest and north central Illinois over several months in 2014 -- was spotted running by Interstate 90 near Marengo that same year. Officials suspected he was forced out of his home territory by other bears.

• A tiger head believed to have bounced out the back of a truck was found in Lakemoor in 2009, likely while being transported to a taxidermist. Local police said the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service officials had received a call from the owner, who reported the head missing, but it was unclear whether possession of the tiger head was legal.

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