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Alligator's travel companion subject of hunt in Chicago

| Wednesday, Nov. 13, 2013, 6:24 p.m.

CHICAGO — After tracking down a small alligator skulking in a baggage claim area in Chicago's O'Hare International Airport, authorities are 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 at 1:17 a.m. A security camera captured the woman petting her little friend on her knee as she talked on a cellphone.

Blue Line rider Mark Strotman also snapped a picture of the woman and the alligator with his phone.

“She was sitting with it, petting it, letting people take pictures of it and telling everyone how she raised it from an early age,” said Strotman, 23, who initially thought the alligator might have been part of some “crazy Halloween getup” because they were on the train only an hour after Halloween turned into Nov. 1.

An hour later, the woman, presumably with the alligator, disembarked the train at the airport. At 2:44 a.m., she is again recorded by the security cameras near the O'Hare stop, but with no reptilian companion.

Strotman said that given how fond the woman seemed of the gator, he suspects that it might have gotten away from her at the airport. Besides, he said, “You can drop off an alligator anywhere. You don't have to take it to O'Hare.”

An airport employee found the gator later in the day under an escalator near a baggage claim — insert alligator-skin bag joke here. Police captured the reptile by trapping it beneath a trash can.

Not only did officials name the creature Allie, but also handed it over to people who could care for it, just in the nick of time.

“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,” said Jason Hood, president of the Chicago Herpetological Society.

The society took custody of the 2- or 3-year-old American alligator of unknown gender.

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