Gulf Shores, Alabama: Our morning started
very early as the repairman arrived to change out our relay switch. It took
a bit longer than we had planned, but in the end, our electric troubles are
(probably) behind us.
The rest of our day was just as satisfying. We made friends with a few
Just a few miles north of Gulf Shoes, in Summerdale, you will find
Alley. Owner Wes Moore, has turned a twenty acre swamp into a sanctuary
for "nuisance" alligators rescued from (mostly) Florida. Here, with a stream
running through the property, over 150 alligators live peacefully in the
Alligator Alley observation tower
Resting on the river bank
A little guy
A very few of the critters are in pens - and they are the
smaller gators, or alligators being rehabilitated from a physical problem.
Most have the run of the swamp. There is one notable exception - Captain
Crunch. Captain Crunch is over 13 feet long, nearly 1000 pounds and has a
record-breaking bite that makes a Great White Shark seem like a kitten. He
was "rescued" from a lake near Tallahassee because he had developed a taste
for dogs - namely pets of people living lakeside. Captain Crunch is isolated
because he is just plain mean and fights with the other alligators at
Alligator Alley. He is also very camera shy:
This is all we saw of The Captain today
Amazingly enough, the alligators are not routinely fed by
the keepers at Alligator Alley. They usually find enough to eat living in
the swamp. Turtles are their most common food, but they also find beaver,
raccoon and other swamp creatures. Their diet is occasionally supplemented
with deer carcasses (deer hit by cars, etc.) and during hunting season,
local butchers and taxidermists keep the facility stocked with carcasses.
(Yummy stuff, if you are a gator.) During the summer, the alligators are
given a little supplemental feeding (mostly expired meats from local
supermarkets). During the feeding "show", Wes Moore tells his visitors about
alligators and explains the purpose of his facility. This guy loves
alligators. He knows the larger animals by name, knows their history and
tells their story.
Many alligators resting on the river bank
This fella is about 12 feet long (photo by DT)
This time of year, the animals spend the day out of water
and move into the water at night. In summer, after the water reaches 80
degrees, they spend most of their time in the water and are difficult for
the public to view. Luckily for us, today nearly every alligator was out of
the water, sleeping along the river bank, or snoozing in the swamp.
Wes told us "size matters" in the alligator world. The ladies want the
biggest male alligators for their mates. During mating season, the ladies
start gathering around their chosen dude, fighting a bit with each other for
time with their guy. In the end, the male actually gathers a bit of a harem,
with the females spending all their time around him. At Alligator Alley
there are three distinct harems right now. Females lay around 30-35 eggs.
The hatchlings are gathered by the facility, sold to zoos, etc., or kept at
This is Evan (Auburn University), a biologist at Alligator Alley. Evan
brought out a little guy for a few of us to touch and hold. After posing
for this photo, the mouth of the alligator was temporarily closed
with electricians tape for safety of the tourists. This alligator is
small, but his jaws could easily break a human finger. Ouch.
Don't I look SO brave! I could not get over how powerful the muscles were on
alligator. The belly was soft (like snake skin), but the ridges across the
back were hard.
One of the visitors asked Evan if he had a larger
alligator for her to hold! Daring gal!
So Evan broke out a big guy!
And she held the larger gator - brave woman!
TOUGH GUY: I know for a fact this man is terrified of snakes, etc.
Notice how I used Photoshop to remove the tape across the jaw?
Pretty gator, enjoying the swamp life
Raised walkways have been constructed over the
cypress-filled swamp, so it is easy (and safe) to walk in every direction to
view - and photograph - the alligators. We really had a very, very enjoyable
time at Alligator Alley - actually spending over three hours at the
facility. Definitely something we don't do everyday... or ever - we loved
Now we were hungry! Not wanting decomposing beaver carcass (though there was
a nice specimen rotting away in the swamp), we headed out to a regional
chain pizza place, the
for a very late lunch/early dinner. Linner. Not only did they bake us a nice
pizza, we each had a lovely salad. (What? No frickles?) Not surprising after
our morning activity - our meals were vegetarian. The Mellow Mushroom makes
their crust with spring water and molasses. Different, chewy and delicious.
NICE! Caprese Salad, with a reduced balsamic dressing.
Fresh food. Nothing deep fried.
We also had a "Gourmet White" pizza
Another night of staying home, watching A-10 basketball. No
dinner again after another late lunch. Until my next update, I remain, your
Bella Terra RV