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How did Chance the Snapper get into the Humboldt Park lagoon? | Chicago Mysteries with Geoffrey Baer

How did Chance the Snapper get into the Humboldt Park lagoon?

Stylized picture an alligator's head peeking out of the water
No. 2D6C057D Case Opened 07/09/2019

The Mystery:

How did Chance the Snapper get into the Humboldt Park lagoon?

Closeup of Chance the Snapper with his mouth taped up

Chicago made national headlines when an alligator, fondly nicknamed Chance the Snapper, showed up one day in the Humboldt Park lagoon. Geoffrey Baer explores this ongoing Chicago mystery.

It all began with a pair of eyeballs peering over the surface of the water in the Humboldt Park lagoon. Photographer Ren Horst was taking photos early one morning in July of 2019 for a quinceanera when she spotted the eyeballs and took a quick picture. “We’re like, wow, it’s an alligator!” Horst said. Block Club Chicago reporter Mina Bloom was covering the Humboldt Park neighborhood and broke the story, which immediately captured the attention of Chicagoans and even made national headlines. “All of a sudden there were thousands of people just around the perimeter of this lagoon and looking for the gator – but also just enjoying themselves, playing catch, hanging out with neighbors, enjoying the weather. So it was just this really beautiful thing to see,” Bloom told Geoffrey Baer. While reptile experts worked to capture and rescue the alligator, Chicagoans put their sense of humor to work. Block Club posted a poll to give the fugitive reptile a name, and the good people of Chicago delivered. Suggestions like Croc Obama and Ruth Gator Ginsburg were floated. “We ended up going with Chance the Snapper – of course, a nod to our hometown rapper Chance the Rapper,” Bloom said. During a week of unsuccessful rescue attempts by the professionals, some amateurs got creative. Bloom said she saw one man lower a rotisserie chicken on a string into the lagoon while onlookers cheered. Clearly, reinforcements were needed. Local authorities recruited an expert from Florida named Frank Robb, who took less than 24 hours to catch the roughly 4-foot-long gator in the middle of the night using a fishing pole. “Alligator Robb” became a local celebrity for saving Chance the Snapper and got the chance to turn on Buckingham Fountain and throw out the first pitch at a Chicago Cubs game. Chicagoans returned the favor, too, about two years later, when Robb faced heart problems. “Media up there helped me find my doctor who did my heart surgery, helped fundraise the money to pay that off. The city of Chicago is a lot of the reason that I’m still here,” Robb told Baer. One key part of the story remains a mystery: How did Chance the Snapper end up in the lagoon in the first place? There is no definite answer. The main theory, however, is that someone was keeping him illegally as a pet and then dumped him when he got too big or inconvenient. Chance’s snout was bent, suggesting he had been kept in a cage. Fortunately, Chance the Snapper’s story has a happy ending: He’s now 6 feet long and a Florida resident living with fellow gator pals at the St. Augustine Alligator Farm. They grow up so fast!

The Outcome


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