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Terry & Dave Taylor

Alligator Alley

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 alligators!

Just a few miles north of Gulf Shoes, in Summerdale, you will find Alligator 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 Alabama sunshine.

Alligator Alley in Summerdale, Alabama
Alligator Alley observation tower

Alligator Alley in Summerdale, Alabama
Resting on the river bank

Alligator Alley in Summerdale, Alabama
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:

Alligator Alley - Captain Crunch
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.

Alligator Alley in Summerdale, Alabama
Many alligators resting on the river bank

Alligator Alley in Summerdale, Alabama
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 Alligator Alley.

Alligator Alley in Summerdale, Alabama
Feed me

Alligator Alley in Summerdale, Alabama
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.

Alligator Alley in Summerdale, Alabama
Don't I look SO brave! I could not get over how powerful the muscles were on this little
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!

Alligator Alley in Summerdale, Alabama
So Evan broke out a big guy!

Alligator Alley in Summerdale, Alabama
And she held the larger gator - brave woman!

Alligator Alley in Summerdale, Alabama
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?

Alligator Alley in Summerdale, Alabama
Alligator eyes

Alligator Alley in Summerdale, Alabama
Alligator leg

Alligator Alley in Summerdale, Alabama
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 Alligator Alley!

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 Mellow Mushroom, 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.

Mellow Mushroom
NICE! Caprese Salad, with a reduced balsamic dressing.

Mellow Mushroom
Fresh food. Nothing deep fried.

Mellow Mushroom White Gourmet Pizza
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 herpetologist correspondent.

RV Park: Bella Terra RV Resort

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