A post written by my husband Brad.
The answer is emphatically no. Just the idea of a gator farm in Colorado is ludicrous, right? But there it is—Colorado Gators Reptile Park, in Mosca, Colorado, just down the road from the Great Sand Dunes National Park.
It all started in 1977, when Erwin and Lynne Young learned of the geothermal wells in the area. The Youngs built a tilapia farm here, using the geothermal energy to keep the water warm and raise this tropical fish. In 1987, they bought 100 small gators to eat the dead fish and waste from filleting fish. Soon, locals wanted to see them…and voilà, in 1990, Colorado Gators opened its doors. They now have 400 gators and many other reptiles.
If you’ve been to Gatorland in Orlando, FL, realize Colorado Gators is a bit more…uh…rustic than Gatorland. Many of the enclosures seem ramshackle to say the least, but that adds to the charm rather than taking it away.
After Colorado Gators opened its doors, people who had bought a reptile for a pet and had second thoughts would drop them off. Colorado Gators put them on display and used them to educate the public on the challenges of keeping reptiles as pets—hence the name “Colorado Gators Reptile Park.”
When we visited the gator farm, my daughter Kara was 11 and my son Ryan was 9, which were the perfect ages for them to enjoy this experience. First, we had a picture taken holding a small alligator, which was a bit catatonic. We enjoyed looking at all the turtles, snakes, tortoises, lizards, and other reptiles in the park’s mini-zoo. The farm still raises tilapia; in fact, they were filling an order that day so Ray Young, the owner and a colorful character himself, let Kara and Ryan climb into the knee-high tank and net the fish. The kids thought that was a gas!
The best part, of course, was feeding the gators. We bought gator chow for $2 a bucket. It looks like really big dog food. There were plenty of gators to feed, but the trick to feeding them was a matter of placement. Throw it too far from them and they wouldn’t bother (gators are lazy!). But throw it too close and things become a bit scary. The goal became to throw the chow between gators, so they would all go for it and snap at each other. Poor throwing skills led to one or two gators getting plonked on the head, which the kids thought was hilarious.
We did not sign up for the gator wrestling classes, but given my antics on our way in (see my other post), I really didn’t need to prove how crazy I was.
Check out the gator farm at coloradogators.com and the next time you’re in Colorado, take a detour on your way to the ski resorts and see some gators (they are open year-round and have pictures on their website of gators in the snow