I don't wanna' be critical here but everybody knows that alligators come from Florida and Louisiana and right here in Colorado it snows and blows a lot and whadda ya do about that? Well, it seems Erwin Young has a thermal spring here that gushes water at the exact temperature an alligator finds just darlin', about 87 degrees, and they thrive here a lot better than they do down in Florida...
Even though they eat a lot of stuff that'd ordinarily have to be dumped somewhere else, the alligators aren't the money maker here...yet...these little guys are. These are Rocky Mountain White Tilapia. Erwin Young raises and sells about 100,000 pounds of Tilapia a year to restaurants all across the country.
The alligators, when they start reproducing, might become a source for meat and hides. In the meantime, they all just sort of lay around in the sun, pretty lifeless and slow and dull, but... It took one alligator about 1/20 of a second to come awake and find and grab a fish thrown in the pen. If that doesn't get your attention...
"A grown alligator can run 30 mph and kill a 300-pound animal. So if you can beat that then get in the pen. Except there are about 80 in there..."
Becka Baldwin, whose charge it is to keep an eye on the visitors, says all the signs they have posted don't always impress everybody..."People poke the alligators, the fence. I've seen people hold kids over the fence trying to get a really good picture."
Ah, here comes a big fellow floating along and pushing ahead of him only a hint of the menace he's capable of. It might help to know that if he gets his dander up he can go, in the water, from dead still to 30 mph in a heartbeat. It's only because they are kept well fed that some of the kids don't have an alligator coming over the fence at them, an act I am assured they can perform with ease.
Alligators in Colorado, though? "I've had people drop in from Florida," Erwin says, "and say we've lived in Florida all our life and never really seen anything just like this in Florida."
Eighty or so alligators all kinda fat and warm in about 87 degree water in...Colorado. Just hope...they stay well fed!
The Gator Farm is 17 miles north of Alamosa CO on Highway 17. Alamosa is in south-central Colorado in the San Luis Valley. The Rio Grande River runs down the valley.
Summer hours are 9 a.m. to 7 p.m every day. Admission : 80 and over and 5 and under are free, 6-15 and 65-79 is $7.50, 16-64 is $15. For more info call: 719-378-2612
If you're in the area this weekend, Aug 4th and 5th...they're havaing what they are billibng as the wrold's first gator rodeo and round up. Gator faijitas and Cajun Tilapia and "other" food available.
The nearest town with accommodations is Alamosa.
Their website :www.gatorfarm.com.