HUMBOLDT PARK — Chance The Snapper has bulked up and made some new friends in Florida during the pandemic.
Chance is faring well in the Florida sunshine nearly three years after becoming Chicago’s mascot, according to Gen Anderson, general curator of St. Augustine Alligator Farm Zoological Park, and alligator trapper Frank Robb.
Measuring around 4 feet long and 18 pounds when he was trapped in the Humboldt Park lagoon in July 2019, Chance now is 6 feet long and 55 pounds, Robb said.
The St. Augustine team recently put the now-beefy reptile back on exhibit after a long hiatus so he can interact with other crocodilians and continue to develop his expanding social skills.
“People were asking everyday to see him. It’s neat to have him back out there again,” Robb said.
Chance became a national story when he was spotted prowling the quiet Humboldt Park lagoon, setting off gator fever.
A week-long search for the wayward reptile brought hundreds, if not thousands of Chicagoans to the lagoon each day: neighbors, street vendors and news crews gathered around the lagoon’s perimeter for gator watch.
The gator, nicknamed Chance the Snapper by Block Club readers, was eventually caught by Robb, earning him celebrity status.
When Chance was caught, he had a bent snout and a shyness found in gators confined to small spaces. Robb and other experts have said Chance was someone’s pet gator, let loose into the lagoon sometime shortly before he was spotted in 2019.
But a few years into his stay at the St. Augustine Alligator Farm, Chance has taken on a different persona; he’s tough and “doesn’t take anybody’s crap,” according to Robb, who helps out at the farm and visits frequently.
Chance has grown to be one of the largest gators at the Florida farm, Anderson said.
His snout is no longer bent. The irregularity worked itself out over time, Robb said.
Anderson said he gets along well with other gators and crocodilians, she said. Last week, he joined an exhibit with 15 other crocodilians. He’ll eventually share the space with about 40 other reptiles, she said.
It’s a big change for Chance, who roomed with just two female alligators from Chicago’s Shedd Aquarium for the past year and a half.
“He’s definitely enjoying the Florida sunshine here,” Anderson said.
Robb said Chance isn’t the same alligator he pulled out of the lagoon in 2019. When he visited last week, he said he could hardly lift him.
But Robb said thankfully Chance hasn’t forgotten about him — or even his days evading capture in the lagoon.
“As soon as he sees me, he’s like, ‘Dear lord, here he is again.’ He’ll turn his head and hiss at me,” Robb said.
Robb still primarily works as a gator trapper. After Chance, he launched a nonprofit dedicated to saving more alligators and furthering alligator research and education. You can follow his trapper work here. Learn more about Robb’s nonprofit here.
Robb also said he has fully recovered from heart valve surgery he underwent in March 2021. Without insurance to pay for the complex procedure, friends and admirers raised nearly $50,000 to partially cover his expenses.
Listen to “It’s All Good: A Block Club Chicago Podcast”: