There may or may not be an alligator on the loose in Rochester right now.

A woman and several children spotted the tropical reptile slithering around Cascade Lake Tuesday night and alerted police. According to Rochester police, they reported a toothy alligator or crocodile, about 3 or 4 feet long, eyeing them from the lake around 8 p.m.

A 45-minute search of the city lake that night failed to turn up any sign of the Rochester gator. Police searched again Wednesday morning but saw no sign of any exotic intruders.

Minnesota is about 1,000 miles north of the swamp-dwelling species' normal range, but this wouldn't be the first time someone's exotic pet found its way into a local lake.

Last summer, police in the Brainerd Lakes area took custody of a 3-foot-long gator they found sunning itself on a local bike path. Ten days later, Cass County deputies scooped a second small alligator out of Hardy Lake, near Pillager. Both gators — believed to be exotic pets that either escaped or were dumped by negligent owners — were taken to local wildlife sanctuaries.

In 2013, an alligator lunged out of the lily pads on Goose Lake in Washington County and was shot by a Department of Natural Resources officer.

Rochester police Lt. Mike Sadauskis said the city will keep an eye out for rogue reptiles and has reached out to an animal sanctuary in Owatonna, just in case.

Jennifer Brooks • 612-673-4008