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Alligator Sanctuary in Michigan

Updated on June 3, 2012
Educating about these amazing creatures includes personally holding one!
Educating about these amazing creatures includes personally holding one!

Why are there alligators in Michigan? you ask. In this northern state where people say - if you don't like the weather, just wait an hour because it'll change. Where the climate includes cold winters! Why are there alligators in Michigan?

Did you know that many states allow alligators as exotic pets? That 1 foot gator is such a cutey-pie. What happens though when it's a 7 foot gator and is no longer a cutey-pie?

Unfortunately, when owners lose interest or realize they can no longer care for them, some are released into the "wild". Chances of an alligator living in the wild in a northern state like Michigan are slim and none.

That's where the Critchlow Alligator Sanctuary (CAS) steps in.

The CAS is a safe haven for abandoned or donated alligators in northern states in the U.S.A.

Meet Spike

Alligators top teeth show when their mouths are closed.
Alligators top teeth show when their mouths are closed.

Reptile Rescue

The Critchlows (Dave & Carmen) have been rescuing alligators for about 15 years. They are developing this reptile and amphibian sanctuary to enable these cool, and misunderstood, creatures to live out their lives in a safer environment and to provide educational opportunities for visitors and supporters.

Every one of the alligators in the sanctuary has been rescued. No exotic pets, no baby alligators for sale here. None are bought or sold or bred. Many have been malnourished or kept in poor conditions by previous owners. They come from states where the odds of them living if let go outside are almost non-existent. Ones have come from around Michigan, from California, Kentucky, and other states.

Sanctuary is about 13 miles south of I-94, south of Battle Creek, MI

This young one is named Alphabet Soup because some of its markings look like letters.
This young one is named Alphabet Soup because some of its markings look like letters. | Source

Interesting Facts

Notice that an alligator has four toes but only three toe nails. The toe without a nail has nerves that help the alligator sense its surroundings in and out of the water. Note also the webbing between the toes.

A general rule is that the distance measured between the eyes and the nostrils of an alligator can determine the length of the body. If between the eyes and the nostrils measures 3 inches, then the alligator's body would be 3 feet long. If it measures 6 inches, then the alligator is 6 feet long.

Alligators are carnivores, but they rarely attack people.

Alligators cannot sweat. Sometimes they will open their mouths to allow the evaporation to help them stay cool. Water helps to regulate their temperature - hence they live by the water.

A group of alligators is called a congregation.

Banana tree
Banana tree

Zoological Gardens

The little sanctuary is expanding. You can visit the greenhouse where the reptiles were kept in the winter. A larger building is being set up in 2012 to improve the temperature control.

People can visit the CAS, take classes, or sign up to be Zookeeper for the Day. Options are available for learning about the different reptiles and the environment.

Several exotic or tropical plants and grasses are seen throughout the sanctuary. Flowers, trees, and grasses help provide a more natural habitat.

Biscuit Food for Reptiles

Visitors can help feed the alligators. This gator is eating a specially made biscuit. Smaller alligators eat pellets that look similar to dog food.
Visitors can help feed the alligators. This gator is eating a specially made biscuit. Smaller alligators eat pellets that look similar to dog food.

One Hot Lady

On warm days, the alligator will bask in the sun. On cooler days, the alligator stays in the water which is warmer.
On warm days, the alligator will bask in the sun. On cooler days, the alligator stays in the water which is warmer.

"Tom"

Hanging Out by the Pond

An animal sanctuary is a special place where creatures are brought to be safe and to live out the rest of their natural lives. The alligators have man-made ponds to swim and float in.

The sanctuary is divided into separate areas for the different sized reptiles to manage their behaviors. Dave Critchlow refers to them as elementary, middle school, and high school.

Then, the area where they are trained is called the college.

Trained, you say?

Yes, Dave is training some of the alligators to come when called by name. Some also recognize their color (he uses sticks with colored tape on the ends).

The training helps them be crated to be examined or moved to different areas of the sanctuary with less stress on the animals.

No alligator wrestling and roping allowed here!

Do Not Try This At Home

Dave rewards this alligator for coming when called.
Dave rewards this alligator for coming when called.

A Bearded Dragon

Source

Meet "Sweet Pea"

Source
Little Ones Can Ride A Tortoise
Little Ones Can Ride A Tortoise | Source

Other Rescued Animals

Included in the rescue effort are some tortoises, snakes, lizards, turtles, and frogs. Some are kept in aquarium containers and some are outside or in the greenhouse.

And some get to come out and play.

Sweet Pea, who in 2012 is a young, 15 year old tortoise, lives in the sanctuary. She could live to be over 100 years old.

You could go to the Galapogas Islands to find the longest-living giant tortoises. A tortoise spends most of the time on land, but will go in the water to cool off.

Sweet Pea's shell is more pointed than it should be which shows that she had a rough start to life and probably wasn't fed a proper diet. As she grows and is well taken care of, her shell should round out more.

She travels slowly, but can go faster than you'd think. What a personality!

The "horns" on her feet help her to dig in the dirt. They are not sharp to the touch. Everyone should have the chance to touch a friendly tortoise in their lifetime!


Great People With Passion

The Critchlows are caring, entertaining instructors. They are passionate about helping these alligators and other animals.

What a fun, educational experience to spend a few hours at this sanctuary in Athens, Michigan!

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    • farmloft profile image
      Author

      farmloft 5 years ago from Michigan

      mwilliams - Pet baby alligators are sold, sometimes the pet store will say that they won't get as big as ones in the wild - but they do!

      internpete - I was amazed at alligators in Michigan when I first heard of it, too.

    • internpete profile image

      Peter V 5 years ago from At the Beach in Florida

      Nice hub! I had no idea there were alligators in Michigan!

    • mwilliams66 profile image

      mwilliams66 5 years ago from Left Coast, USA

      I find it truly amazing and utterly appalling that such wild animals are legally kept as pets in some states. Thank goodness for such wonderful sanctuaries. Thank you for sharing this info. Things don't change with out education and you have certainly helped the cause.

      Excellent hub farmloft.