Lake Michigan alligator found swimming with mouth taped shut, officials say

A 4-foot alligator -- with its mouth taped shut -- was found swimming in the chilly waters of Lake Michigan near Chicago, officials said Monday.

The alligator was spotted by a kayaker fishing for salmon off the Waukegan shore in Illinois. David Castaneda told the Lake County News-Sun he was shocked by the discovery and wasn’t sure whether it was an animal or a toy.

Waukegan Police Animal Control and staff at Larsen Marine Service, Inc. helped rescue the reptile, officials said. The animal was subsequently taken to the Wildlife Discovery Center in Lake Forest.

Rob Carmichael, the curator for the Wildlife Discovery Center in Lake Forest, told the Lake County News-Sun the alligator had its mouth taped shut.

“I would say it would be lucky if it lived another couple weeks,” Carmichael told the newspaper. “Lake Michigan is only getting colder and colder each week.”

Waukegan city officials initially said the reptile that was found was a caiman, which is similar to an alligator. However, the Wildlife Discovery Center told officials it was in fact an American alligator, according to the Lake County News-Sun.

Carmichael said it wasn’t immediately clear how long the alligator had its mouth taped shut. Officials at the Discovery Center said it would take a few days to know just how dire the reptile’s situation was. As long as the animal didn’t have any major issues, it should be able to live, Carmichael said.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.