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    See You Later, Insta-Gator!

    Saturday, August 13, 2011

    Who's holding these snappy little critters?

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    Eldest, that's who!

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    And if you're as stunned as I was to discover how naturally handling wee alligators came to her, then come on over and join me for a cup of tea.

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    I was floored. Not because she's the squeamish type, but because she's just not an animal person. She loves reading about them, studying them, zoos are a favorite past time if we can manage it. Eldest has a great respect for animals in general. But she's never wanted a pet nor is she keen for us to get one.

    That said, she thought the entire experience at Insta-Gator Ranch & Hatchery was fascinating, and the scallywag could not help but agree!

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    She wasn't exactly ready to cozy up to one, but Eldest thoroughly enjoyed the unique opportunity to interact with something as wild and mysterious as the American Alligator.

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    Located in Covington, Louisiana, Insta-Gator Ranch & Hatchery is a program that was developed to conserve the Louisiana Wetlands as well as the American Alligator. They're world renowned, and it's easy to see why. What they've done is really remarkable! Not only have they assisted in bringing the alligator species back from the brink of becoming endangered, but they've found a purpose for each alligator born at the Hatchery.

    Some are returned to the swamps and wetlands~3 out of every 10. But others are used for food and, as expected, shoes, wallets, and other accessories. It's not always pleasant to hear, but it's important to understand that this helps control the alligator population. And why is this important?

    Because there are over 3 million alligators within the state of Louisiana. Do you want to know how many people reside within Louisiana?

    4 million.

    How is that for unnerving and shocking? I knew we were vastly outnumbers at Insta-Gator, but knowing that the human population was almost equal to that of the alligator? It just shows how much work the Ranch & Hatchery has done for the wetland habitat.

    Needless to say, this certainly isn't a job for the faint of heart.

    Our guide was young, funny, and very well-informed.

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    And he should be! He's one of the ranchers who helps reintroduce alligators back into their natural habitat, and flies into the wetlands to extract their eggs.

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    It's no easy task, though, as the mama gator is always on the watch. But here's an interesting fact: she's not watching because she cares for her babies. She's watching because someone is invading her space. This is a gal who would be paid many a visit by Child Protective Services were she human~she's that neglectful. Mama gators don't care a wit for their young. But they do like their territory and will protect it with the ferocity of...well...an alligator.

    As most newborn alligators don't make it from their incubation in their eggs, Insta-Gator removes them from the Mama gator and the threat of others, and allow them to be born in a safer environment.

    Our guide let us gently stroke a newborn alligator, and I don't know who was more amazed~Eldest or the scallywag.

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    They were also mesmerized by our engaging tour guide, as well as the videos showing how they remove the eggs from the alligator nests.

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    But the best part of our tour by far was the moment our guide filled our hands with marshmallows.

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    Why is this so exciting?

    Because it meant we were going to feed some gators!

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    Walking into a small, dank-smelling "barn", a slippery walkway and three-foot high wall was all the protection we had from 8 holding areas containing at least 100 alligators.

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    They ranged in size, but you could easily see which ones were the more aggressive hunters, and which ones were content to see where their food went.

    Don't think for a moment these were complacent reptiles, though. They're 100% predator. One particular gator was bold enough to walk up to the wall and watch as every single person shuffled by.

    Confiding quietly to a visitor behind us, our guide revealed that this 8 1/2 foot alligator was unusually aggressive and creating enough of a concern that they were going to have to release him back into the wetlands a little sooner than expected.

    Needless to say, we all breathed a little easier once we were in the sunshine and away from that bad boy.

    But the fun wasn't over!

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    Once again we were invited to gently pet a slightly bigger alligator and watch how he moved across the grass of the Ranch. The wee one wasn't quite as enthralled as our guide showed us how to get an alligator to fall asleep (turn him upside down!),

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    but he entertained himself on a very large gator that happened to be lounging near by.

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    Don't worry, he was no longer of this world.

    Our tour informally concluded at this point, and Mom and the wee boy went back to the car. Eldest, Daddy, and I however, had a date with some little scaly friends.

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    It was our turn to pick up alligators!

    They were still fairly young, but had substantial weight to each of them. I was surprised by this. I also found it remarkable at how beautiful they were up close! I held one, and was glad to have had the experience, but I felt much more at ease behind the camera.

    As you can see, Daddy and Eldest had a blast while I snapped away!

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    After 15 minutes of being able to carefully handle the smaller alligators, Eldest was ready to go. She was so proud of herself and thrilled to have participated at Insta-Gator. I joked that perhaps she'd found her calling.

    The entire time she'd been gentle and attentive to her reptilian charges, even giving them nicknames that suited their personalities. Our guide remarked upon the same thing, saying she had been very good with the alligators and didn't act silly around them. Then he teased her that when she'd gotten the right degree, she'd be welcome to work at Insta-Gator Ranch & Hatchery!

    I'm not sure this is truly Eldest's calling, but she certainly had a wonderful time handling the alligators. We all did!

    Should y'all ever be in the New Orleans area or north of the city, I encourage you to go to Insta-Gator and take their tour. It's only an hour and a half and not only will you learn many interesting facts, you'll come to have a new level of appreciation for our lovely American Alligator.

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    Reason enough to go, don't you think?

    Have a lovely weekend all and thank you for stopping by to read and say hello! Tomorrow we leave for Los Angeles and begin settling in to our new home.

    We cannot wait to start this new adventure!

    5 Responses to “
    See You Later, Insta-Gator!

    Katie@TeamSkelley said...

    Elizabeth, that was absolutely fascinating! So much that I handed my laptop to my husband Marc and he read the entry too!

    Safe travels tomorrow!

    Your Southern Peach said...

    First, let me say what a well written post this is! Secondly, I had no idea there were so many gators in Louisiana! Your daughter seems to have a bit of an adventurous spirit and I love that. If I'm ever in the area, I will surely take the boys to Insta-Gator. They would love it!

    Enjoy your Sunday and I cannot wait for ya'll to get "home." :)

    Suburban Princess said...

    Wow great recap and photos!!

    But you know what's disgusting? All those people on their bleeping cell phones while there is a presentation going on!

    Ruth said...

    What fun! I am glad Maddy was brave enough to hold them. I never would be.

    I hope you have a safe trip and call me when you are settled.

    Kerri said...

    Who new alligators like marshmallows? Hmmmm they are called "marsh" mallows after all. ;) Great post & pics!