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Aligator Anomoly

Aligator Anomaly
by Judith Fein

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Here I am, outside of Alamosa, Colorado, 7500 feet up in the Rocky Mountains. There's snow on the majestic peaks, the temperature is hovers around 30 degrees, and we turn in at a sign that leads to...wait a minute, am I hallucinating? It's an alligator farm. I wouldn't even blink if I were in the Louisiana bayou or the Florida swamps, but...Colorado?!?

In the main building, where I pay a very reasonable $3 entry fee, an unflappable reptile-lover named Monica tells us how this alligator anomaly came to be.

Monica: "Our main business here is a fish farm. The original intent behind the alligators was to take care of the waste from the fish farm -- any dead fish we might have. The fish that we raise are Talapia -- they're warm-water fish and we do have a geothermal well. The water comes out of the ground at 87 degrees."

The main purpose was to see if they could raise alligators just using the geothermal waters. But then, people started stopping by to see the gators. Monica tells me that they have 124, and many of them came from people who bought cute, little pint-size gators as pets and then freaked when they grew up and they didn't know what to do with them.

At this point, I am croaking to see the big, man-chomping gators, but you have to be patient when you visit the Colorado Alligator Farm. First, Monica introduces me to a peacock:

"His name is Obnoxious or Nuisance, I can't remember which one. He screams at every noise, he messes all over the place where he shouldn't be messing. He's just obnoxious."

Then I meet some long, slithery things that crawl on their bellies. "Boots" is eleven feet long and weighs over 100 pounds.

Monica: "We have three Burmese pythons, Boots, Con and Cleo. Can you see her? She's coiled up. She's sitting on her eggs now and will sit there until they hatch."

Monica gleefully tells me that for $89 I can buy one, or, if I'm feeling less flush, for $35 I can get a corn snake. Snakes, shmakes. "Where are the big gators?" I want to know. Monica first introduces me to the alligator babies, who are in a tank. They are about two-and-a-half to three feet long.

"We're looking at Sir Champsalot and his knights and ladies. The first alligators ever born in Colorado. We had a name-the-alligator contest when he was first born. A little four-year-old girl in Colorado Springs picked the name Sir Chompsalot."

This is getting stranger and stranger. But finally, Monica opens the door that leads outside. My pulse quickens. The wind is howling. I stand five feet from a deep, dark blue pool of water. And I hear another sound, under the wind.

(Sound: Loud wind and flapping water)

"That was alligators eating. I threw them a couple of carcasses -- fish carcases, that is."

There are 85 of these big mothers thrashing around in the warm water. Monica cheerily tells me that when that when an alligator closes his jaws, it has the force of 3500 pounds behind its bite.

I inch closer to the edge of the water, and there they are, about ten feet long and weighing in at around 600 pounds. They look like their Disneyland counterparts, except their teeth are bigger.

I joke with Monica, asking her if she ever jumps into the water with the alligators. Can you believe it? She says that she does, whenever the alligators have special needs. Of course, I want to know what she wears when she goes in the water:

Monica: "Tennis shoes, shorts...."

Judie: "How come you don't get eaten?"

Monica: "Cause they're man-eating gators."

Before I leave, Monica hands me a baby gator. She puts duct tape around his snout so he doesn't eat my cheeks, and then I cuddle with the sweet little reptile, who seems very happy, in spite of the fact that I haven't volunteered to be his next meal.

At the Colorado Alligator Farm, this is Judie Fein, still in one piece, for The Savvy Traveler.

Colorado Alligator Farm
9162 County Road 9 North
Mosca, Colorado 81146

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