Colorado Gators is a unique, family-centered reptile and fish farm hidden in Mosca, Colorado, about 17 miles north of Alamosa. Established as a public attraction in 1987, Colorado Gators welcomes visitors to check out their snakes, tortoises, lizards, crocodiles, and of course, alligators. It started as just a fish farm in the 70’s, but owners soon realized they needed something to do with the leftover tilapia. Baby alligators were the answer. The alligators began to attract locals, then locals started to bring in rescues. Before long, the farm was home to many critters of the strange and unusual, as well as venomous and deadly ones. This farm hosts the annual Gatorfest, a gator wrestling competition between amateurs every August. This contest draws a lot of visitors and helps get the farm through each winter.
Below is a feeding session for one of the older alligators at the farm, Elvis. He weighs over 500 pounds and is near 11 feet long. He is as aggressive as he is massive, and farm owner Jay Young was ready with dinner. As a starter, Elvis was offered a catfish grown in one of the tilapia bins. Coming up for the main entrée was a large slab of fresh meat for him to enjoy.
It wouldn’t be fair to feed just one of the hundreds of alligators at the farm, especially after such an unseasonably warm week. So next, we moved to a larger area of the swamp to feed the 7-10’ gators fresh meat.
Not only will Colorado Gators welcome you to check out all of their pets and let you feed them, but for a small fee, they’ll teach you how to handle an alligator! After signing a page-long waiver proclaiming that if you get bit, you deserved it and will not whine, your instructor takes you to the smallest gator pit on the farm where you learn the basics. I have been fortunate enough to of taken this class as well as multiple refreshers, so this visit I was able to play with some nice medium-sized alligators.
A major factor in handling the gators is inspecting them for wounds. Any time an aggressive animal like this is contained with other animals like itself, there are bound to be fights. Whether it’s over food, a warm basking spot, or during mating season, gators will find a reason to fight each other. When we handle them, we examine them head to tail for wounds and check their basic signs of health. Cuts and gashes are cleaned, sanitized, then coated with Neosporin to aid healing. The petroleum jelly in Neosporin acts as a barrier to the water, thus helping the wound stay clean longer and heal faster. We also check to make sure their eyes look healthy and that their behavior is normal. If an alligator doesn’t try to bite you, you may be dealing with a sick gator. Luckily for me, the gators I grabbed were feisty and healthy, bearing only a few minor scrapes we were able to easily clean and treat.
The farm genuinely cares about its pets and does not harvest any alligators for skin or meat. They offer much more to see than just reptiles as well; there are rabbits, emus, ostriches, donkeys, horses, goats, geese, peacocks, and more! They are open daily until 5pm and feature special events frequently, be sure to check the events calendar on their page for your next trip to the San Luis Valley! www.GatorFarm.com
Even Luche Libre wrestlers are welcome on the farm!
Of the many competitors that started Gatorfest, only 4 remained on day 2 to compete for first place. No one really knows why competitors drop out after the first day; some say that they finally come to their senses, others say they just wanted to claim that they had competed in a gator wrestling contest. One thing we do know, it’s the true champions that come back for day two in the swamp.
It was the Fox brothers, Dave and Steve, versus Derrick, a reigning champion from years ago, looking to reclaim his throne, and Jason McDonald, another former champion. The Fox father, Charlie, had won the past 3 Gatorfests, but was not competing this year due to doctor’s orders. His sons wrestled bravely and each got bit this Sunday! It was late in the day, their last catch. For Dave, he was neck deep in the swamp, feeling his way around an alligator trying to locate the head, when the gator’s head located Dave’s elbow. It was a quick snap and some mellow thrashing in the water leading to a lovely crimson shower spewing from Dave’s arm. Video of this and the aftermath will be available soon on our website, www.SwaggerjackProductions.com.
Derrick ended up being crowned champion of this Gatorfest, regaining the title after years of forfeiting it to Charlie Fox. He managed to catch the most inches of gator throughout the contest, even if the margin was less than 6 inches. One of his most daring catches involved crawling into a small concrete tube, head first with no room to turn around, in an attempt to fish out a gator that had wedged itself in there. He caught the gator and won the contest. Go Derrick!
Derrick with his champion gator, winning Gatorfest for the first time in years, he will cherish this year’s experience, trophy, and bragging rights!: