Police whisked 60-centimetres long "Allie'' the alligator into a box after it was spotted it under an escalator at Chicago's O'Hare Airport on Friday morning.
A maintenance worker made the bizarre discovery in the lowel level of Terminal 3, Chicago Police Department News Affairs Officer Hector Alfaro said. The unexpected trespasser was later transferred into the care of the Chicago Herpetological Society.
By Sunday, Allie, an American alligator about 3-years-old, was still "in distress '' from Friday's incident and was suffering from a metabolic bone deficiency, which likely means its diet was poor and lacked calcium for some time before Allie was found, according to a spokesman for the Chicago Herpetological Society.
According to the spokesman, a traveller going down an escalator first spotted the "very lethargic" gator and grabbed an O'Hare custodian who then called police about 10 am Friday, he said.
The police contacted the society to help with the removal of the animal, he said, adding that officers, who named it Allie, used a broom to whisk the gator into a box and it was taken to an undisclosed location, under the care of the society.
Allie "needs time to recover,'' he said, after the jarring experience of lying on the cold concrete floor of O'Hare after likely being "dumped'' there, he said.
"Some human being physically carried it there and put it there,'' he said. "It's not big enough to operate automatic doors.''
Worried, he imagined the worst for Allie.
"It could have gotten into baggage...what if it had gotten on the tarmac or run over by a plane?''
Allie, who is considered a "juvenile" is about 60cm long and small for its age. Its gender was not immediately known.
These gators, that normally live in temperatures of 26-32 degrees, can grow in size to 120cm and can have the same life expectancy of humans and sometimes owners don't realise it.
"Everybody thinks they're cute and adorable when they're small,'' he said. They grow up to be not only much larger, but also with teeth.
"One of the problems is they live so darn long...people don't realize...when your child turns 18 you can throw him out the door but this is America -- you have to be a responsible pet owner,''
Right now, Allie's health is paramount. "It needs quiet and warmth,'' he said.
This kind of animal normally lives in Florida or other southern states.
"Allie will be stuck in quarantine until it gets healthy again,'' he said.
"After that, the society will find a permanent home for it in another state. The conditions in Chicago are not perfect for raising alligators.''