An unlikely creature was spotted by a kayaker in Lake Michigan who actually confused the animal for a toy. The man is being heralded for rescuing the animal, which was dumped in the lake and was completely out of its element. David Castaneda was kayaking when he spotted a four-foot-long alligator in the Illinois lake earlier this week and was unsure what exactly he was looking at initially.
David explained that he thought it was a dead salmon at first when he saw the alligator’s head in the water in the town of Waukegan, which is located about an hour north Chicago.
The city of Waukegan addressed the rumors on Facebook, saying: “It is not every day someone reports an alligator in Lake Michigan and the report is true.”
David told Lake County News-Sun, “I was just in shock,” adding, “I wasn’t sure if it was a real alligator or a toy.”
He further explained: “It was just so weird, something out of the ordinary. It’s not supposed to be here so it’s not, it can’t defend itself and it had its mouth closed, so it was going to die if I left it there.”
Seeing the animal in distress and realizing he’d have to wait for the Waukegan Animal Control to arrive, he decided to help the little guy out himself.
David told ABC 7: “So I just changed my lure to one that was more of a bigger hook and threw it over its back and it hooked on to the little scales that were on its back. And I started pulling it slowly towards me so it wouldn’t freak out.”
He eventually got some assistance from animal control officials and workers at a nearby storage business and the alligator was taken to a wildlife center in the nearby city of Lake Forest.
Rob Carmichael, a curator at the Wildlife Discovery Center, where the alligator was transported, noted that the animal was “still kinda stressed out” about everything but was in a much better place over being forced to survive out of its element.
Rob further explained to ABC 7: “We’re going to know its real personality probably tomorrow because he’ll be in optimal heat, warm water and a normal alligator climate.”
While it’s unclear how the alligator ended up in the lake, it was found with tape wrapped around its mouth and is believed to have been discarded in the lake by someone who owned the reptile.
An official with the wildlife center noted that had the alligator not been rescued, things could have turned out much differently, as he remarked that the animal was “definitely on borrowed time.”
He added, “I would say it would be lucky if it lived another couple weeks. Lake Michigan is only getting colder and colder each week.”
Alligators typically live in warmer climates, and are most active when the environment is between 82 and 92 degrees.
Lake Michigan temperatures reach freezing in the winter and up to 80 degrees in the summer. The alligator was found in 70 degree water.
Animal control officers are currently investigating to determine who dumped the animal in the lake.
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