Gator Gate: Alligator Found Roaming Chicago’s O’Hare International Airport
No news on if it was trying to fly international or domestic.
New York City's sewers, please step aside. In a story worthy of the X-Files, an alligator was found beneath an escalator at Chicago's O'Hare International airport this past Friday.
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Terminal 3 of an international airport is not the American alligator's natural habitat. These once endangered critters, reside almost exclusively in the fresh water rivers, lakes, and wetlands of the southeastern United States, chiefly in Louisiana and Florida. Although alligator males can range in length between ten and fifteen feet with female alligators reaching a maximum length of 9.8 feet, the alligator captured at O'Hare was a mere 12-18 inches. According the Chicago Herpetological Society, the airport alligator, who was named Allie, owes its short stature to its relative youth and its owner. His caretaker likely improperly fed Allie stunting his growth.
This isn't the first bizarre story of human-'gator interaction.
This past summer an alligator was found in a Kansas lake, despite the fact that Kansas is far too cold to harbor alligators - they prefer temperatures of 85-90 degrees. Cletus, as the alligator was named, was kidnapped from its owner during a party.
Similarly, the urban myth of the New York City sewer alligator is grounded, at least in part, by fact. In 1935 a seven foot, 125 pound alligator teenage boys found an alligator at the bottom of a Harlem Manhole. The teens used a rope to remove pull it to the surface. After the alligator snapped at one of boys, the teens beat it to death. The New York Times speculated that the animal had escaped from a ship traveling from the Everglades, swam into the Harlem River and into the storm conduit where it was found.
Much like our New York City alligator, the evidence strongly suggests the alligator found its way to O'Hare with some human help. Twitter pictures show a man holding an alligator that looks suspiciously like Allie riding Chicago's blue line El Train. The blue line goes to O'Hare leaving some to suspect that the alligator was dropped off by a flight passenger who made the likely wise determination that the alligator wouldn't pass through security. Alligator ownership is illegal in Illinois - for good reason. Alligators live up to fifty years in the wild - there are reports of some living as long as 100 years in captivity. Both time spans are a significant commitment for any pet owner, especially given that as a pet, alligators become more lethal with age.
Allie is currently in the hands of the Chicago Herpetological Society, where, after six months of rehabilitation it will be turned over to an out-of-state alligator farm.
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