Cops search lagoon for alligator — in Chicago: ‘I’m worried about the kids’

Chicago police are investigating reports of an alligator on the loose in a local lagoon.

Police spokesman Anthony Guglielmi wrote on Twitter on Tuesday afternoon that authorities in the Illinois city have received “reports of a possible alligator in Humboldt Park lagoon” and have “notified animal control but have not confirmed this is a legitimate call as of yet.”

Guglielmi added that an officer was on her way to the lagoon on the western side of the city “to give general safety tips should this be a legitimate incident.”

The lagoon is linked to a public beach that swimmers use, according to Block Club Chicago, which reported that multiple witnesses had spotted the “approximately four- to five-foot-long alligator or crocodile in the Humboldt Park Lagoon.”

Police, state officials and animal control officials responded to the body of water on Tuesday, with officers leaving “bait traps” at the lagoon, according to the Chicago Tribune.

“If this is a pet alligator, it was probably kept in an aquarium and released,” said Jenny Schlueter, a spokeswoman for Chicago’s Animal Care and Control, according to the Chicago Sun-Times. She added that the animal “will probably be scared and try to hide.”

Officials wouldn’t speak to journalists at the lagoon and hadn’t seen the reptile, the Tribune reported, but an alligator expert known as “Alligator Bob” was paddling the waters in a canoe, apparently looking for the creature.

Rencie Horst-Ruiz, a photographer, was at the lagoon around 6:30 a.m. for a sweet 16 photoshoot when a man said he’d seen an alligator in the water, Block Club reported.

“We thought: no way, we thought it would be a toy or something,” Horst-Ruiz said, according to the publication — but then she said she saw it. “It was close to the pier at first.”

Another man walking in the park, Charlie Rizzo, reported seeing the animal as well after another witness alerted him, Block Club reported.

“The guy said he’d been watching it for hours,” Rizzo said, according to Block Club. “I’m worried about the kids.”

Others were upset they’d missed it.

“I was hoping I’d get to see it because I want to see how big it is,” Regina Allen said while peering through borrowed binoculars, according to the Tribune.

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Jared Gilmour is a McClatchy national reporter based in San Francisco. He covers everything from health and science to politics and crime. He studied journalism at Northwestern University and grew up in North Dakota.