Critchlow Alligator Sanctuary In Athens Michigan

Alligators in Michigan? Discover the Critchlow Alligator Sanctuary in Southwest Michigan

Nestled in the small town of Athens, Michigan, there is an unusual yet fascinating attraction that stands out in the chilly climate known more for its lakes than exotic wildlife.

The Critchlow Alligator Sanctuary is home to an array of reptiles and amphibians, offering them a safe haven and proper care. This sanctuary allows visitors to learn about these incredible creatures in a unique environment far from their native habitats.

Critchlow Alligator Sanctuary | photo via sailor_fcking_moon

The sanctuary’s mission goes beyond just displaying alligators; it is an educational resource where the public can gain insights into the lives of these reptiles. The facility cares for hundreds of alligators and other reptiles, many of which come from situations of adoption, rescue, or donation.

By visiting, guests not only witness these animals up close but also support the ongoing efforts of the sanctuary to provide a secure and nurturing home for its residents.

For those with a keen interest in wildlife conservation or simply looking for a different kind of adventure, the Critchlow Alligator Sanctuary offers a memorable experience. From educational programs to animal welfare initiatives, the sanctuary prioritizes the well-being of its animals while engaging the curiosity and support of the community.

This place is amazing. The animals are very well taken care of. Care is the key word. The staff truly care about each animal. The staff know each animals back story and their personalities. The animals are all rescue. They are being rehabilitated to live their best life. The staff are very knowledgeable. The tour is fun and educational. It is about the cost of area zoos and worth every penny. Highly recommended. Mr Critchlow does not disappoint!!

TheRubberKitty, review on Tripadvisor
The People At Critchlow Alligator Sanctuary Take Really Great Care Of These Animals. This Place Is Not A Zoo And Doesn't Breed. It Exists Solely To Be A Safe Place For Unwanted, Neglected Or Unmanageable Alligators.
Critchlow Alligator Sanctuary | photo via sailor_fcking_moon

History of Alligator Sanctuaries in Michigan

In the cooler northern climate of Michigan, one might be surprised to find reptiles that typically favor warmer environments. However, the Critchlow Alligator Sanctuary has established itself as a welcoming environment for these unexpected residents.

The sanctuary began as a safe haven for alligators, as well as other reptiles and amphibians. Over time, it has become a refuge where these creatures receive the care necessary to thrive. It’s interesting to note that many of the sanctuary’s inhabitants arrived from various locations, each with its own story and in need of proper homes.

David Critchlow, the sanctuary’s founder, has been instrumental in its development. His dedication has not only provided a home to these animals but also emphasizes the importance of caring for species that are often misunderstood.

Here’s a brief timeline highlighting the sanctuary’s growth:

  • 2005: David Critchlow opens the sanctuary.
  • 2015: The sanctuary garners media attention for its conservation efforts.
  • Present: Now home to nearly 200 alligators and several other reptilian species.

The sanctuary’s unique approach includes training alligators to adapt to Michigan’s climate. This adaptation is crucial for their long-term well-being in an environment far from their natural habitat.

Their educational focus allows visitors to learn about alligators, promoting wildlife conservation and dispelling myths about these ancient creatures. Through interactions and careful observation, the Critchlow Alligator Sanctuary not only provides a home for these animals but also contributes positively to public knowledge and the welfare of the species they protect.

WOW….I will remember my visit here for a long time. This sanctuary for alligators and a couple crocodiles is amazing. I was rewarded with so much valuable information by the owner. My upmost respect to him for having such a wonderful sanctuary for these remarkable alligators who are finally in a place where they receive love and respect.

My friend and I thoroughly enjoyed our visit to Critchlow Alligator Sanctuary and even got to hold a small alligator at the end of our tour. I honor every creature I encountered on this tour and highly recommend a visit to this sanctuary in Athens. This is a one of kind place that has received national recognition for good reason. I learned so much about alligators and enjoyed connecting with them.

During our visit we wanted to see them eat but the alligators are preparing for their winter rest and will have to sustain themselves with the food in their tails as they rest during the upcoming months. It was a gorgeous day when I took a tour with my friend and the alligators were enjoying the sunshine so all of them were visible. Such an inspiring experience to see how neglected reptiles now have a home and a better life.

adrianna24sings, review on Tripadvisor
Critchlow Alligator Sanctuary-Athens
Critchlow Alligator Sanctuary | photo via thespeechlanguagefamily

Visiting a Michigan Alligator Sanctuary

Located at 1698 M-66, Athens MI, 49011, the sanctuary provides various ticket options, including day and season passes, with additional fees for food and animal encounters.

When planning a visit to the Critchlow Alligator Sanctuary in Michigan, visitors can look forward to learning about reptile rescue and care, and the unique opportunities to engage with these creatures through various activities and events.

Located just 15 miles south of Battle Creek on M-66, the sanctuary operates seasonally from May through October.

Visitors are welcomed by a distinctive light-yellow building surrounded by green fencing, marking the entrance to a world of reptilian wonders. Upon arrival, guests are greeted warmly, sometimes even by staff members holding friendly snakes, offering a unique hands-on experience right from the start. 

Hours: The sanctuary operates seasonally from May through October and offers guided tours that provide an educational glimpse into the lives of alligators and other reptiles. Visitors should check the official website for current hours and availability of tours.

Admission: Fees for admission are required and can vary; it’s best to verify the cost before visiting as prices are subject to change.

Critchlow Alligator Sanctuary-Athens
Critchlow Alligator Sanctuary | photo via sophia_leila

Tour Information

Visitors have the option to join free guided tours to gain deeper insights into the alligators’ lives. For a truly memorable experience, don’t miss the live show featuring Godzilla and Medusa, showcasing their impressive abilities and offering educational fun for the audience.

For those seeking a more interactive experience, the sanctuary offers Animal Encounters, including the Tortoise Encounter suitable for all ages, and the Alligator Encounter for those wishing to hold these fascinating creatures.

Prices vary, providing options for individuals and families to enjoy a closer look at the sanctuary’s residents.

Critchlow Alligator Sanctuary-Athens
Critchlow Alligator Sanctuary | photo via twopeninsulasotter

Visitor Guidelines

The sanctuary organizes its alligator residents into “schools” based on size, adding an educational twist to the visit. Double-fenced enclosures ensure safety, while benches allow even the smallest visitors to view and feed the alligators. Special diets are noted for certain alligators, like the sanctuary’s largest residents, Godzilla and Medusa, who are the stars of their own show but are not part of the feeding experience.

Safety: For the safety of visitors and the alligators, it is mandatory to follow all sanctuary rules, such as not feeding or touching the animals unless under the supervision of staff during a guided activity.

Our trip to the Alligator Sanctuary was our family’s favorite activity of the entire summer! We joined a tour with approximately 10 other people and got an up close and personal tour of the facility and the animals with the most entertaining tour guide I have ever met. He was funny but not obnoxious; knowledgeable but spoke in a way that was understandable to even the youngest kids in our group. He had a way of keeping the adults entertained and the kids engaged by involving them in games & demonstrations. They take very good care of the animals here.

There is no set time for the “Godzilla” show — they put one on whenever enough people are present and there really isn’t a way to miss it, as the staff will point you to the right area when the time comes. We enjoyed getting to know a bit about each animal and Godzilla is indeed a most impressive, large gator.

We paid for a family tortoise encounter and it did not disappoint. Highly recommend that one! It was so fun to feed and pet the tortoises and get to know them a bit. We also paid for a cup of food to feed the gators; I don’t feel like that is required to have a good time but if you have kids who are interested, you may want to spring for it. If you have to choose, choose an encounter over the gator food.

There is plenty of parking available. There is not a lot of shade within the sanctuary so be prepared. We felt the price of admission and add-ons was well worth the money. They have a gift shop on site as well. I believe this is a family-run facility. Again – highly, highly recommended if you are in the area! It was like a behind-the-scenes zoo tour. So cool.

Iridescentkittie, review on Tripadvisor

Events and Activities

The sanctuary hosts several hands-on events and activities throughout the season, including opportunities to hold a baby alligator, educational talks, and feeding demonstrations.

An updated list of events can usually be found on their social media pages or by contacting the sanctuary directly.

Critchlow Alligator Sanctuary-Athens
Critchlow Alligator Sanctuary | photo via feral.fungus

Frequently Asked Questions

When discussing alligator sightings and the possibility of their survival in Michigan’s climate, many are intrigued by the facts surrounding these reptiles. Questions also arise about human interactions with alligators at local sanctuaries.

Has an alligator ever been found in Michigan?

There have been incidents where alligators have been found in Michigan. These are typically isolated cases involving pets that have been released or escaped rather than wild, native alligators.

Are there alligators in the Great Lakes?

Alligators are not native to the Great Lakes and do not live in these waters. The Great Lakes’ environment is not suitable for alligators, who prefer warmer climates.

Can alligators survive winter in Michigan?

Alligators cannot survive Michigan winters in the wild due to the cold temperatures. They require warm environments to thrive and would not be able to withstand the freezing temperatures typical of Michigan winters.

Can visitors interact with the animals at the alligator sanctuary in Michigan?

At the Critchlow Alligator Sanctuary, visitors can interact with the animals under supervised conditions. The sanctuary provides educational encounters designed to safely engage visitors with the animals.

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