Social media helps authorities pursue case of alligator abandoned at Chicago airport

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It’s not clear that anyone thought to ban passengers from bringing live alligators, via the Chicago transit system, to the city’s O’Hare International Airport, as a woman apparently did early this month.

However, an Illinois state law at least arguably applies, prohibiting individuals from acting in a caretaking role for “a life-threatening reptile,” among other species, according to the Associated Press and the Chicago Tribune. (Findlaw provides a copy of the Dangerous Animals Act, which also applies specifically to lions, tigers and bears, as well as a number of other animals. It provides for misdemeanor prosecution of offenders.)

Meanwhile, a federal law prohibits alligators being kept without a permit, which state officials stopped issuing about 10 years ago, an earlier Chicago Tribune article explains.

A woman shown on security footage with an alligator on the Chicago Transit Authority’s Blue Line train in the wee hours on Nov. 1 is now the “the subject of a search,” the Tribune reported. The same day she was seen entering and leaving the airport, an alligator was discovered, abandoned, lurking under an escalator at O’Hare.

The Chicago Herpetological Society is caring for the reptile, which is 2 feet long and estimated to be about 3 years old.

Authorities reportedly were aided by social media in figuring out where to look for security footage of the alligator and its now-former caretaker. At least one fellow passenger posted a photograph of the unusual Blue Line traveler on the Internet.

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