An unusually mild fall, to be sure. But not mild enough to attract alligators to the Rock River.
Nevertheless, Jim Gander's 15-year-old grandson Stephon Gander discovered an alligator while fishing on the Illinois side of the Shirland Avenue bridge at 4 p.m. Sunday.
"He saw it laying on the bank. It was almost dead because it was so cold," Jim Gander said.
Stephon had rolled the alligator up in his coat, and called his grandpa for help.
"He's not afraid of anything," his grandfather said.
Jim Gander traveled down to the bridge where he first encountered the foot-and-a-half long creature. He said the alligator was almost frozen and not moving much. The two then took the alligator they nicknamed Chompers home to their living room to warm up.
Jim Gander first called the non-emergency line of Winnebago County.
"They hung up on me," he said.
But he called back, and staff finally agreed to send authorities out.
Although he was almost frozen to death the ‘gator came back to life in the Gander home. Jim Gander said three squad cars arrived to see Chompers. Because there were little ones in the home, they temporarily taped his mouth shut so he wouldn't bite.
"By the time he was in the house for 15 minutes he was crawling around, snapping and was real frisky," Jim Gander said.
Jennifer Stacy, deputy director of Winnebago County Animal Control Services, confirmed an alligator was taken in at around 6 p.m. Sunday. As of Monday she said the alligator appears to be in good health. She said staff is contacting reptile sanctuaries, hoping to find him a safe placement.
It isn't the first time an alligator was found in the area. In February of 2009, an alligator named Wally was discovered abandoned by tenants in an apartment above Hansen's Tavern in Town of Beloit. Rock County Humane Society had revived him back to health by feeding him beef livers and water.
Wally then went to the Serpent Sanctuary, a no-kill shelter outside Fort Atkinson, Wis.
Reptiles can sometimes be purchased at pet stores, or even swap meets and occasionally online. When the animals grow up, some owners abandon them.
The Serpent Sanctuary was founded by Heather Suchomel in 1997. The sanctuary takes in between 20 and 50 animals a year. All animals that come into the shelter are evaluated for adoptability and placed up for adoption.
For more information visit www.serpentsanctuary.org.