An escaped alligator claimed Duck Lake as his lair for a month.
Colorado has many legends and stories about animals, and the recent news about an alligator living in a Chicago park reminded us that, a few years ago, Denver had its very own park-dwelling alligator. Back in June of 1981, the Denver Zoo had some alligators on loan from the Cheyenne Mountain Zoo in Colorado Springs. Denver Zoo at the time did not have a permanent facility to house reptiles year-round, so the gators were kept in a temporary exhibit.
One of the clever beasts managed to make a stealthy escape. And despite his five-and-a-half-feet in length and 45 pounds in weight, no one noticed as the toothy creature made a break from the zoo, climbed the fence, and headed into Denver's City Park. This was actually the third escape attempt for the toothy guy.
The Florida gator, dubbed "Albert" by locals, took up residence in one of City Park's ponds, Duck Lake. For 28 days, Albert enjoyed the shallow pond, eating carp and birds, and avoiding capture by the team of people tasked to return him to his guest quarters at the zoo.
Albert became a local celebrity as the news spread that he had claimed the pond as his own. People came in droves to get their own look at the situation, a local DJ set up shop and did a live broadcast from the water's edge, t-shirts and bumper stickers with Albert's face on them were sold, and a few daring folks tried to catch the beast themselves.
Albert was a fan of the park but not the people, and became very reclusive, due to a large number of onlookers. Things got out of hand with all the bright lights and spectators starting to throw rocks and bottles at the animal, causing him to hide down at the deepest part of the waters. These circumstances made it much harder for zookeepers to catch Albert, though it did increase attendance at the zoo.
Eventually, the staff from the zoo was able to capture Albert, in the wee hours of the morning on July 16, 1981. They used a bright light to temporarily blind the poor guy, then used a lasso and a pole to wrestle him from the water. Albert and his companions finished out their stay and headed back to Colorado Springs without further excitement.
The escape prone gator left a lasting impression on zoo staff and visitors alike, even being featured in a story in The New York Times. Though we aren't sure what happened to Albert after his brush with fame, the memory of his adventure sticks with Denver Zoo staff today and some of his keepers from that time still remember the gator fondly.
Do any of our readers remember the story of Albert, or any other notable escaped animal adventures here in Colorado? Share with us in the comments below!