The Great Lakes are full of even greater surprises.
According to the Lake County News Sun, Chicago kayaker David Castaneda was fishing for salmon in the waters near Waukegan, Illinois, on Monday. After about four hours on the water, Castaneda spotted what he though could be a large, dead fish or alligator-shaped pool toy floating in the water.
“I went closer to see if it was real,” the kayaker told the paper. “I was just in shock. I wasn’t sure if it was a real alligator or a toy.”
Turns out that alligator was 100 percent real. Somehow an 4-ft. American Alligator, known for inhabiting the warmer waters of the U.S. South, had found its way to Lake Michigan, where the water temperature right now is about 62 degrees.
Not knowing what to do about this weird, reptile find, the man called 911 for help. Rescuers sent out Waukegan Police Animal Control to assist in the unusual situation, and officers eventually brought the gator to Wildlife Discovery Center in nearby Lake Forest. Employees at the center are grateful that Castaneda found the animal when he did, since the alligator’s mouth was taped shut when it was found.
Rob Carmichael, the center’s curator, told the Lake County News Sun that the thin, weak reptile had less than a few weeks left, especially with water temperatures in the lake dropping every day.
It is unclear how long the alligator was caught in the chilly waters with no way to eat, but the center is hopeful the incident hasn’t caused any major medical issues.
On Wednesday, the alligator will be given a full exam to determine its weight, sex and state of health, reports the Detroit Free Press. Right now the gator is enjoying some much-need time under the center’s heat lamps.
Authorities are not sure how the alligator ended up in Lake Michigan, but a spokesperson for the City of Waukegan told Lake County News Sun that the city will look into whether the exotic animal was abandoned. Animal abandonment is a crime in the state.