Alligator surprises two anglers in Washington County lake

  • Article by: KEVIN GILES , Star Tribune
  • Updated: August 29, 2013 - 9:30 PM

Clyde the alligator was killed by a DNR officer in a Washington County lake, but a search was underway for Bonnie.

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Will St. Sauver searches Goose Lake for his missing alligator, Bonnie.

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An alligator that surprised two boys fishing in a Washington County lake was shot dead by a Minnesota Department of Natural Resources enforcement officer, but another alligator remained on the loose Thursday.

The alligator, hungry for live frogs that two boys fishing Goose Lake used as bait, emerged suddenly out of the lily pads.

The boys called for help, and DNR officer Scott Arntzen killed the gator with a shotgun blast to the head from a boat and watched it sink. At three feet long, it wasn’t considered dangerous, but Arntzen said alligators don’t belong in Minnesota lakes and have no business alarming anglers.

A second alligator suspected of lurking in the same lake Thursday could not be found. Jerry Cusick, a commander at the Washington County Sheriff’s Office, said both alligators belong to a Scandia resident, Will St. Sauver, who could be in violation of a city ordinance for keeping them.

“Now he’s saying somebody stole his gators,” Cusick said.

St. Sauver’s father, Bill, said the two alligators went missing from an outdoor tank about seven weeks ago. He didn’t know they were named Bonnie and Clyde until Thursday, and he said his son was in a boat searching the lake for the survivor and had seen it in the dark Wednesday night.

“Their eyes shine at night,” said Bill St. Sauver, whose family owns a farm across the road from Goose Lake.

The alligator incident comes about a week after a Stillwater resident found a five-foot boa constrictor coiled on his deck. Hardly native to Minnesota, the snake was another apparent escapee from private captivity. After a fair amount of commotion, it was hauled away for adoption.

The boys were fishing last weekend for bass when the alligator appeared. Arntzen shot it on Monday. Male alligators can grow to 14 feet long and weigh 1,000 pounds, but there was little worry that the ones in Goose Lake were dangerous. The bigger concern was that they don’t belong in lakes.

“It’s not uncommon for us to find alligators in ponds, but they usually starve,” said Capt. Greg Salo, the DNR’s central region enforcement manager. “They would never survive the winter here. This isn’t the Florida Everglades.”

It’s been trendy for people to buy reptiles as exotic pets. Often even lions, tigers and bears appear in the headlines when they get too big to safely handle. Cusick said he’s inclined to let the DNR handle the alligator matter.

“We’re not out there trying to rid the state of Minnesota of exotic species,” he said.

Meanwhile, City Administrator Kristina Handt in Scandia said a letter had been sent to the St. Sauver family advising them of city ordinances, and that the matter was referred to City Attorney Mike Welch for possible prosecution.

“It’s another one of those strange tales from late summer in Minnesota,” said DNR spokesman Harland Hiemstra.

Kevin Giles • 651-925-5037

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