Spotted Hyena (not Jim) | Photo by A Peach

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Chance the Snapper, the alligator who grabbed headlines in the Humboldt Park Lagoon back in July, was not the first unlikely visitor to wander the West Side and suburbs. Chance, likely an illegal pet whose owner set him free in the lagoon, did not make it very far — unlike Jim the Hyena.

In 1897, a hyena escaped Lincoln Park Zoo. The hunt for “Jim” included Graceland Cemetery, where several employees spotted him. For days the Chicago Tribune covered the story of the hyena on the loose, and children in Edgewater and Rogers Park stayed indoors. 

Jim eventually made his way to the Altenheim, the German Old People’s home, 14 miles away, in the vicinity of present-day Madison and Van Buren in Forest Park. As the Tribune reported on June 22, 1897, F. Fisher heard howling at 3 o’clock in the morning and went out to see what the trouble was. The hounds, were “running about the orchard baying fiercely” and when the animal “bounded toward him,” Fischer climbed a tree for safety.

He eventually climbed down and woke several employees, but they couldn’t locate Jim. At 6 o’clock, as Superintendent Mertens was picking strawberries in the garden, he heard rustling and found himself face-to-face with Jim the escaped hyena. He and another employee, Redlich, grabbed their weapons and found the hyena in the strawberry patch. 

It was there that Jim the fugitive hyena’s life came to an end.