JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – This is a gator tale: the story about an alligator that wound up in an Illinois lake and had to be trapped. The problem is there are no gator trappers in Chicago. So you have to import one from Florida.
That's where Frank Robb came into the picture. Robb was called in to capture Chance the Snapper, the now-famous alligator that eluded Chicago authorities for a week. Within 48 hours of touching down in the Windy City, his deed was done.
"They had reached out to some local zoos up there, then reached out to the St. Augustine Alligator Farm, and I'm blessed enough that I guess everybody said the same name," Robb told News4Jax on Tuesday. "They found me."
Even for Robb, who has more than two decades' experience trapping reptiles, capturing the alligator that takes its name from Chance the Rapper was a big ask. Knowing the gator was at Humboldt Park was one thing. Reeling it in was something else entirely.
"That was quite an ordeal," Robb said. "So when you look at this situation that was going up there, it's not just that one small lagoon, it's several lagoons attached to that one lagoon. It’s really an absolute blessing and the grace of God that we actually found him because he was a needle in a haystack."
Over the years, Robb has developed his own technique for catching alligators. He likened it to when Batman shoots his grappling hook at a rooftop and zooms toward the skyline. "You throw a hook across him," he said. "You pull him back into you and then you have him."
Worried that the hooks might come out and the gator could break free, Robb wandered into the water and hauled him back to shore with his own hands. For his efforts, the veteran trapper was treated like a city hero. He even got to throw out the first pitch at the Cubs game.
It was, of course, a strike.
"The pastor at my church used to pitch," explained Robb. "Luckily enough right before I went there he gave me some very sound advice. I took it and used it and it worked out."
A couple of days later, it was back to Northeast Florida where Chance found his new home at the St. Augustine Alligator Farm and a pretty cozy life there. Robb acknowledged that the gator's fate is far better than what most captured reptiles would receive.
Frank said he plans to visit Chance later this week and, believe it or not, he anticipates the gator will be smart enough to recognize him.