I say, nothing’s cuter than a baby alligator, especially when you get to cradle it in your hands!
I know I’ve been lucky with my wildlife encounters. So far in my travels I’ve been able to cuddle baby Tasmanian Devils, swim with baby sharks, hatch baby green sea turtles, and feed a baby moose.But now I can add baby alligators to the list because in Louisiana, they’re just about everywhere that’s wet.
Alligators are fairly common throughout Louisiana, but not so long ago, their numbers had dwindled to the dangerously low point where hunting the reptiles had to be stopped. In 1972, the Rockefeller Wildlife Refuge was formed from a large territory of coastal swamp habitat that was donated by the local McIllhenny family.
Over the past thirty years, a species’ recovery program has brought the numbers of Louisiana alligators back to very healthy numbers. Biologists, park rangers, hunters and alligator farmers all work together to ensure both an abundant wild population and a sustainable harvest for meat and leather. As part of the program, alligator eggs are harvested from the wild, then incubated, hatched and raised on licensed alligator farms. Of these animals, 12% are returned into the wild (compared to the 1% survival rate of baby gators who remain in the wild).
The American Alligator (Alligator mississippiensis) is the largest reptile in North America, and yet it begins life as a teeny-tiny dragon that can fit right in the palm of your hand. Honestly, I had so much fun playing with these squirmy little guys, it was hard for me to put them down.
Then, in my recurring tradition of strange-colored animals, I got to meet a baby, all-white (leucistic) alligator, which is rare but not entirely uncommon. The biologists at the Rockefeller Refuge plucked him out of the wild in order to increase his chance of survival to adulthood.