Gator causes stir in Crow Wing County

Crow Wing County sheriff’s deputies (l to r) Jon Collins, Scott Friis, and Mike Ruuhela with the 3-foot gator captured along a bike path south of Brainerd.

Brainerd, Minn. — What better place for an alligator to sun itself than a paved bicycle path. But in Minnesota?

That’s the story from the Crow Wing County Sheriff’s Department, which received a call just after noon July 9 from a cyclist near the small town of Barrows, south of Brainerd, who’d spotted the gator.

Lt. Joe Meyer, of the sheriff’s department, said the bicyclist came upon the small alligator and called 911. Three Crow Wing deputies responded, he said. By the time they arrived, the gator had moved off the path and into a grassy area.

The scene then, Meyer said, became a bit chaotic.

Officers routinely face suspects with guns, but when confronted by an immature gator, he said, “were running around like school girls.”

Eventually the officers corralled the 3-foot specimen. They contacted the nearby Safari North Wildlife Park to see if the park had any escaped gators.

“He (park operator Kevin Vogel) did a head count and said it wasn’t his,” Meyer said.

The park, however, took in the gator, and it’s currently residing there.

Meyer said there are many explanations regarding how the creature ended up in that area, and on that bike path, but most likely it was owned by a private citizen and was either released for some reason, or escaped.

Vogel said he believes the alligator is about 3 years old. Typically, he said, gators grow about a foot each year for their first six years, before their growth per year drops to about 6 inches.

Because this was a young gator, it’s now enclosed at the park with other alligators. There are about 80 different animals at the park, from giraffes to zebras to primates and many others.

The discovery of gators in the wild is an extremely rare occurrence in Minnesota, but it has happened in the past few years. Releasing exotic, nonnative species into the wild is illegal in the state.

Cutline: Crow Wing County sheriff’s deputies (l to r) Jon Collins, Scott Friis, and Mike Ruuhela with the 3-foot gator captured along a bike path south of Brainerd.

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