CHICAGO (AP) — After tracking down a small alligator skulking in a baggage claim area at Chicago’s O’Hare International Airport, authorities are now hunting for its traveling companion.
The Chicago Transit Authority has released a series of images showing a woman who they believe rode to the airport on a CTA Blue Line train with the 2-foot-long gator in the early morning hours of Nov. 1.
Thanks to one of the most extensive surveillance systems in the United States, officials know this about the alligator’s trip to O’Hare: It boarded a train at the Pulaski stop — with the woman — at 1:17 a.m. The security camera captured the woman petting her little friend on her knee as she talked on her cellphone.
Blue Line rider Mark Strotman also snapped a picture of the woman and the alligator with his phone.
“Everyone who got on sort of did a double take, followed by a few expletives because they couldn’t believe there was an alligator on the El,” Strotman told WMAQ-TV.
“She couldn’t have been nicer,” Strotman said. “She said she had had it since it was very little. She was petting it, and she was very friendly with it. It didn’t seem like she was trying to get rid of it.”
An hour later, the woman, presumably with the alligator, disembarked the train at the airport. Then, at 2:44 a.m., she was again recorded by the security cameras near the O’Hare stop, but with no reptilian companion.
An airport employee found the alligator — now nicknamed Allie — later in the day under an escalator near baggage claim No. 3. Police captured the reptile by trapping it beneath a trash can.
Officials turned the animal over to the Chicago Herpatological Society. “It’s not responding well to food… It hasn’t had the proper nutrition. Its growth has been stunted. It has a bent spine, soft bones, soft fingernails and a soft skull,” Jason Hood, president of the society, said.
Hood said the alligator spotted on the train has the same markings as the animal captured at the airport. It was never a serious threat to the public, too small for its bite to hurt anyone, he said.
Hood said the Illinois Dangerous Animals Act makes it illegal to own an alligator in the state. In addition, under local law, abandoning an animal in a public place is punishable by a fine of $300 to $1,000.
CTA spokeswoman Lambrini Lukidis said the system has had deer on train platforms and roosters on buses and trains, “but this is the first reptile, at least that I’m aware of.”