There are an estimated 5 million American alligators in the U.S., and about 4,999,997 live in the southeastern states.
One of the Yankee holdouts was caught Monday in Lake Michigan. He didn’t know it, but it was a life-saving break.
“I would say it would be lucky if it lived another couple weeks,” Rob Carmichael told the Chicago Tribune. “Lake Michigan is only getting colder and colder each week.”
Carmichael is the curator for the Wildlife Discovery Center in Lake Forest, Ill. The 4-foot alligator was taken there after a kayaker spotted it while fishing for salmon near Waukegan Harbor.
David Castaneda could hardly believe his eyes.
“I went closer to see if it was real,” he said. “I was just in shock. I wasn’t sure if it was a real alligator or a toy.”
It was real, all right, though somebody had apparently thrown it out like an unwanted toy. The alligator’s mouth was taped shut, so it’s easy to surmise it was someone’s pet.
That someone apparently dumped the gator in Lake Michigan, which will never be mistaken for Lake Okeechobee.
The water temperature is in the lower 60s right now. In the dead of winter it’s in the mid-30s.
That’s not hospitable to most living creatures, especially cold-blooded ones like alligators that rely on external sources of heat to regulate their body temperature.
It’s unknown how long the gator had been in Lake Michigan, but Carmichael said the creature “was definitely on borrowed time.”
The skinny gator will stay at the Discovery Center for now. Carmichael said that barring any major issues like a bacterial infection, the gator should be able to regain its health.
Abandoning exotic animals is a crime. Waukegan city spokesman David Motley told the Tribune that authorities are investigating the incident.
If they find the perpetrator, maybe they should tape his or her mouth shut and toss them in Lake Michigan for a couple of hours.