Later, gator: Bob nabs critter

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Chicago Tribune (IL) - Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Author: Alejandra Cancino, Tribune reporter ; Tribune reporter Andrew L. Wang contributed to this report.

The 3-foot alligator was floating with his eyes just above the murky waters of the Chicago River on Tuesday when he was spotted underneath the Belmont Avenue bridge.

Bob the alligator wrangler said he paddled over as the alligator submerged. He took out a long pole with a net attached to one end and cornered the alligator between the curb and the net.

"It had no choice but to go in the net," said "Alligator Bob," who doesn't like to give out his last name.

He then scooped the creature out of the water and into his canoe and put it inside a sack as onlookers on the shore applauded.

Bob said the alligator will be kept for 60 to 90 days at an "undisclosed place, for the animal's safety." He will then contact organizations in Florida that are willing to take it.

"It was a quiet capture," he said to a couple who wondered how he did it.

"I was hoping to feed her to him," said the man, jokingly referring to his female companion.

"There is nothing to feed him with," said Bob, giving the woman a compliment.

Bob put the American alligator inside a plastic container and went back to the river to retrieve his traps.

Eric Wagner, 48, walked by hoping to see the creature with his binoculars before work, but he was a half-hour too late.

"I just missed it," Wagner said. "It would have been cool to see (the catch). But you know, I saw (the alligator) yesterday."

Bob, a volunteer with the Chicago Herpetological Society, returned with the last of his five traps. He wore the same khaki shorts and brown boots from the day before and a fresh shirt. Now, however, the shorts were damp and slightly dirty, and the boots were soaked.

"It's physically exhausting but enjoyable," Bob said.

"It feels good. ... I am excited because of the fact that this is an animal that would have died otherwise," Bob said.

If owners would turn in their unwanted pets to the Chicago Commission on Animal Care and Control, he wouldn't be out here, he said.

"Nobody pays me for this mess," Bob said.

It is illegal for people to own, care for or act as a custodian of an alligator in Illinois. But Cherie Travis, executive director of the commission, said she would rather work with the owners than have them release the animals into the wild, where they would most likely die.

"I would really hope people would look for assistance," Travis said.