We spent this past weekend at my parent’s house. They weren’t there but we still enjoyed “house crashing” for a few days. A Groupon was released last week for Kliebert’s Turtle and Alligator Farm in Hammond, LA. The Klieberts are one of the family from “Swamp People”- Big Mike and T-Mike are the two gator hunters. I thought this would be a fun family outing and it would be a great way to introduce Sam to alligators, up close and personal. Travis and I have toured alligator farms/ranches before and held gators but Sam has never been able to. When I was telling him about it and telling him that he would get to hold an alligator he was so excited. It was cute.

When we got there Saturday morning, T-Mike actually held the door open for us. To me, it was neat to be able to interact with some of the “stars” of Swamp People. They were SOOOO friendly and down to earth. They started the tour a bit early and so we quickly walked past the turtle part of the farm and caught up at the first alligator pond.

From July 2012


Our tour guide was throwing food out and so we got to watch the gators fight over food. One neat thing about gators is that they have to hold their head out of the water to swallow their food. They actually hold it almost straight up so that the flap in the back of their throat opens for the food to go down.

From July 2012


We then walked past a pond covered in water lilies. This is the breeding pond and it is currently full of males who are healing from all the fights that occur during breeding season and the females who are actively guarding their eggs. Female alligators are VERY protective of their young and will stay with them until they are about 2 years old. Our guide informed us that if we were ever out somewhere and saw a small (3-4 feet) alligator to be careful because there is probably a momma gator nearby. 🙂 You can’t tell in the picture but the pond is full of gators. They are under the lilies. When our guide got inside the gate with them and started throwing food, we could watch the lilies move- it was a bit creepy.

From July 2012


Here is a gator that was not in the water while we were there.

From July 2012


Here is one that was spying on us…

From July 2012


This picture is a bit blurry but you can see our guide feeding one of the alligators.

From July 2012


Then he started throwing meat to get more to come and “playing” with a LARGE/GIGANTIC gator nearby.

From July 2012


From July 2012


He was rubbing on their nose to get them to open their mouth so he could QUICKLY tap their teeth and get them to slam their mouth shut. This was so we could hear the “chomp” and he could tell us how many 1000s of pounds of pressure these gators bite down with. It was CRAZY!

From July 2012


Next we went over to a different part of the breeding pond so we could meet Crusher (a 17 foot male gator). The group was LARGE and so we couldn’t get very close for great pictures. However, this is a pretty good one that Travis managed to snag- and advantage of a tall husband is the ability to take pictures OVER a 7 foot fence. 🙂

From July 2012


From July 2012


Then our tour guide went into a pen and caught one of the 6 foot alligators and taped its mouth shut.

From July 2012


Then he was able to show various features of the alligator to us. In the picture below, he is pointing out these two holes (that look like cotton is sticking out of them) which are super sensitive sensors that allow the gator to know when something is moving around in the water. His example was that sometimes we see video of an animal drinking water and an alligator coming up and grabbing the animal. Those sensors help it know where food is.

From July 2012


He also showed how an alligator has two eyelids- the outer one goes up and down and is like our eyelids. The inner one goes side to side and is used underwater so the alligator doesn’t get water in its eyes.

From July 2012


Then whoever wanted to was given the chance to sit on the alligator and hold its head. Sam decided he wanted to do that.

From July 2012


Then, anyone who wanted to was given the chance to hold a baby gator. Sam wanted to do that too. 🙂

From July 2012


Our tour was over by this point (and we were BURNING UP) so we headed indoors to the gift shop. They didn’t have any Christmas ornaments but Sam did manage to get a keychain (surprise surprise!)

He also had his picture taken with Big Mike. When Big Mike saw the shirt Sam was wearing (former Reggie Bush Saints jersey,) he looked at me and said he was going to have fun with him. This was the first picture I got…

From July 2012


Then, after a good bit of laughter from both of them, they took a “serious” picture.

From July 2012


Apparently there were two birthday parties that morning (which might explain the LARGE group we toured with) and the Kliebert’s provide the cake. Pretty cool!

From July 2012


I was in charge of video while Travis snapped the picture. I combined them all together below. Sorry for the shakiness- I was also trying to keep an eye on Sam so that he didn’t become gator bait.

It was a neat tour and was a GREAT first tour for Sam. It was definitely HOT though but, we do live in Louisiana now. 🙂

I am looking forward to introducing Sam to “Swamp People” on TV one day and see if he recognizes the Klieberts. I think that would be fun.

🙂
Steph

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