ZIMMERMAN, Minn. — It was a weekend full of first experiences for Cory Klocek. It was his first time hunting during a global pandemic. It was also his first shotgun hunt.
"I am usually a rifle hunter, so it was just a lot of firsts this year for me," he said.
Klocek said it went exceptionally well -- in terms of deer hunting, at least.
"[At] eight o'clock in the morning, I had a nice 10-point buck walk in," Klocek described. "I was able to take the shot and saw where he ran, saw where he fell down. I wasn't sure if he was down or just lost him in the grass."
But as for Klocek's other first... he's hoping it's also his last, at least here in Minnesota on his friend's farm.
"As I was walking around the pond where this deer ran, I was tracking the deer, there was a three-foot alligator laying on the edge of the pond," he said. "So I called [my friend] and just said, 'hey, there's an alligator in your pond back here,' and she said, 'what are you talking about?' I said 'yes, there's a real live alligator.'"
That was his first gator encounter ever.
"Holy cow, there's an alligator out here!" he recalled saying. "That's not something you should see in Minnesota ever. I traveled the world a lot with the military. I've never been to a place where I've seen an alligator in real life so it was even more of a shock. In November in Minnesota, to find an alligator swimming in a pond."
Although not completely rare, the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources confirmed that reptiles like the one Klocek found -- whether they be alligators or caiman -- are non-native and considered invasive species in Minnesota. There have been a few sightings in the state in the past several years.
The DNR spokesperson added that the reptiles, since they are not native, have no special protections. He said they also would not be able to survive the winter. In the off chance that they did, they could also potentially harm the native species within the state.
"My next call was to the DNR, obviously," Klocek said. "And we had found my deer at this point. I just said, 'do you want me to dispatch this animal or wait for you guys to get here?' and I was told to go ahead, [that] it's invasive."
That is the story of how Klocek ended up with a 10-point buck (albeit, now that's been a buried lead) and a presumed alligator in his freezer. When he pulled the alligator out of the cooler he had temporarily stored it in, the gator quickly frosted over as his garage was warm.
He said he is going to take both the animals to be taxidermized pretty soon.
Klocek added that although this made for one heck of a hunting season opener story, he was slightly upset to find that this most likely happened because of irresponsibility on the owner of the alligator.
The DNR said most gator or caiman sightings in Minnesota are former pets.
"If it was someone's pet and they brought it back there, they would have had to trespass on the farmer's property to get it there," Klocek said. "That's frustrating. It's frustrating that a pet owner wasn't responsible enough to take care of their pet and released it. I understand accidents happen and if something happened and it got out--but I haven't heard any reports of missing alligators."
In the state of Minnesota, it is not illegal to own an alligator, although several cities have their own rules about owning reptiles and other exotic animals. However, even if it is allowed in your city, the DNR strongly discouraged owning alligators, crocodiles and caiman as pets because they are just not equipped to survive Minnesota climates.