Visit Alamosa If You Are Looking For An Alligator Farm In Colorado!
It’s a lonesome two-lane highway, populated with antelope and scrub oak, that stretches for more than 100 miles between Alamosa and Salida in the south-central part of the state. A great way to break up the drive, stretch your legs and amaze the kids along the way is to stop in at the Colorado Gators Farm and Reptile Park.
What began as a natural geothermal water source was developed a few years ago into a wholesale tilapia farm. The tilapia, a mild, white fish, is available for purchase at Colorado Gators.
Colorado Gators, a wonderful alligator farm in Colorado, is a great example of a nutrient life cycle; the fish waste is used as a fertilizer for plants in two tropical greenhouses, which in turn provide food for the turtles and iguanas that inhabit the park.
The farm owners introduced alligators as highly efficient garbage disposals to contend with the fish waste, the gators settled in happily, and Colorado Gators Farm and Reptile Park was born.
“The fish brought the gators,” says Lynn Young, who owns the place with her husband, “and the gators brought the people.”
Kids can feed the gators from a safe distance, with food available for purchase from the park. A two-mile water canal snakes around the property, and guests can rent canoes and take a mild boat ride around the grounds. “We promise no gators in the canal,” Young says with a wry smile.
These days, the park also serves as an exotic animal rescue and education program where guests can see and feed the over 400 gators, as well as snakes, birds, tortoises, ostriches and even a pair of emus.
The outreach program aims to educate children and adults about the behavior and role of reptiles in nature, and at the facility. A number of animals, including lizards, tortoises and snakes help illustrate the hands-on presentation. Another big goal of the program is to teach kids and their parents how to make good pet choices.
The one-of-a-kind alligator farm in Colorado, Colorado Gators Farm and Reptile Park, has evolved through the years. When the Young’s purchased 80 acres, their original intent was to grow tilapias and African perch. The farms’ geothermal well is used to keep the water at a specific temperature to meet the fish’s needs. In 1987 they purchased 100 one-year-old alligators to dispose of fish-processing waste. Then, when the locals learned about the alligators, they wanted to see them. After all, it was not typical to have an alligator farm in the state of Colorado. With the public’s demand to see the creatures, the farm was opened to the public in 1990.
Through the years, the Youngs have expanded their business. They now offer a home to many unwanted, abused, or possibly dangerous creatures. Sometimes people buy their child a baby reptile, for example. Since it needs water, they solve the problem by putting it in the family bathtub; however, it eventually outgrows the family and the bathtub. Some of these reptiles can also become dangerous. The Youngs now have a new goal to help educate the public about the challenges and dangers of attempting to keep a reptile as a pet.
Through the years, Erwin and Lynne’s son, Jay Young, has learned many things. One of these is becoming an alligator wrestler. This may not have been learned out of fun and desire, but it was learned to survive with the gators to move them from one pond to another. It is also important to know this to check them for injuries and illnesses. Young says that gator wrestling is not a “thinking man’s sport.”
He explains that once you catch an alligator by the tail, you have little time to think; instead, you must immediately react. The first rule is not to hesitate. The second rule is to hold on to the gator by the tail, and not let go. If you break either of these rules, you will most likely get bitten.
“We had one family bring us a 120-pound snapping turtle,” says Young. “They had purchased it as a little pet for their son, and it just grew out of control for them.”
The exotic animal rescue program plays a big part in what Colorado Gators is all about; one of their soon-to-be residents is Morris, a 13-foot long, 600-pound alligator that has been performing in Hollywood in various movie and television projects for more than 25 years. In more of a retirement than a true rescue, Morris will spend his golden years at Colorado Gators.
“Alligators can live to be 70 years old,” explains Young. “An animal like Morris still has a long life in front of him, but his movie star days are over.”
Other rescued animals living at the park include “Doug,” an African Sulcata Tortoise that outgrew his previous owner. He’s 34 pounds now, but may reach 250 pounds. “Dream,” an Albino Burmese Python from India, is one of eight large snakes that live at Colorado Gators.
Commonly bred in captivity as pets, the males of the species are generally mild-mannered and approachable. Females can reach 25 feet, and are often more aggressive.
Special events take place throughout the year at Colorado Gators. April Fool’s Day is free, an Eggfest takes place around Easter, and an annual highlight is Gatorfest, a two-day alligator wrestling rodeo. Brave souls who have gone through alligator-wrangling training demonstrate the skills used by alligator handlers.
When the animals require medical care, transportation or a simple checkup, someone has to step in and handle them. There is no such thing as a tame gator, and they don’t take kindly to being touched.
The facilities at this alligator farm in Colorado are basic but user-friendly; pathways are gravel, yet still navigable by strollers. Somehow, the rustic setting only adds to the allure of the place.
If You Go
Colorado Gators Farm and Reptile Park, 9162 County Road 9 North, Mosca, 17 miles north of Alamosa on Colorado Highway 17, (719) 378-2612 www.gatorfarm.com