CHICAGO (AP) — After tracking down a small alligator skulking in a baggage claim area at Chicago's O'Hare International Airport, authorities are now 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 — with the woman — at 1:17 a.m. The security camera captured the woman petting her little friend on her knee as she talked on her cellphone.
Strotman said given how fond the the woman seemed of the alligator, he suspects that it might have gotten away from her at the airport. Besides, he told The Associated Press, "You can drop off an alligator anywhere. You don't have to take it to O'Hare."
An airport employee found the alligator 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," Jason Hood, president of the Chicago Herpetological Society, told The Associated Press. The society took custody of the alligator.
Hood said the alligator spotted on the train has the same markings as the animal captured at the airport.
"Those responsible for this act can face a misdemeanor charge of cruel treatment of an animal or face a fine of $300 to $1,000 for cruelty to animals for abandoning the animal in a public place," the authority said in a news release.
CTA spokeswoman Lambrini Lukidis said releasing the photos provides a good reminder that 3,600 cameras are keeping a close eye on the transit system.
"If a more serious crime is happening in our system," she said, "there are ways for us to work with investigators and the police department."