Lake Michigan gator

(Photo: City of Waukegan, via Facebook)

Report Of 4-Foot Long Reptile In Lake Michigan Turns Out To Be True

October 08, 2018 - 5:17 pm

(WWJ) It's not something you see on Lake Michigan every day.

Animal control officials in Waukegan -- located in Lake County, Illinois -- got a call Monday morning from a kayaker about a four-foot alligator spotted slowly swimming in the lake.

"My first thought was no way. He must've seen a muskrat or a mink or something," said Matthew Palya, who works for Larsen Marine Service in the area. 

The caller followed up with a video, officials said, proving the remarkable claim; and authorities responded. An animal control officer was able go get a hold on the reptile, which had tape around its mouth.

Talking with WWJ's Sandra McNeill, Palya described watching the officer pull the animal from the lake. "I raced over there and she was on top of the alligator, holding it down, and I said, 'How can I help you?'"

"...She was on top of this thing and she was pretty winded," Palya said. "She said, you know, just give me a second to think; I need to breathe and think."

Palya said he helped the officer cut some fishing line and a hook off the alligator, and then helped her load it into a van. 

"I did not think this was gonna happen when I woke up this morning, I'll tell you that," he added. "It's been hard to focus after that. It's unreal; it was unbelievable."

No injuries were reported. 

"Much thanks to the person who reported it, Waukegan Police Animal Control and staff at Larsen Marine Service, Inc. (LMS) for the safe and successful rescue," the city of Waukegan said, in a Facebook post, including a photo of the reptile aboard a boat. 

The animal was transported to the Wildlife Discovery Center in Lake Forest where curator Rob Carmichael initailly identified it as a caiman. However, officials later said it was, indeed, an alligator. 

It's unclear at this time if the reptile was someone's pet, or where the animal came from. 

Palya is hoping it's going to be OK.

"It was, you know, in colder waters than it's supposed to be -- that's not the environment for it -- and it's mouth was taped shut. It couldn't get a bite of food."

Carmichael said the reptile would've been lucky to live a couple more weeks in the lake, adding that it will be checked out by a veterinarian.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.