Day 143: Critchlow Alligator Sanctuary

Photo courtesy of Dan Moyle Day 143: Critchlow Alligator Sanctuary
Photo courtesy of Dan Moyle

There are alligators in Michigan! Run for the hills! Stay out of the sewers and ponds! Call the authorities!

Oh wait…the gators are already in a safe place. It’s known as “Critchlow Alligator Sanctuary,” and the only alligator sanctuary in West Michigan happens to be  in the small town of Athens, near Battle Creek.  In fact it’s the only one in the entire Mitten! Founder and head gator-guy David Critchlow says it’s the only alligator sanctuary for about 700 miles.

Photo courtesy of Dan Day 143: Critchlow Alligator Sanctuary
Photo courtesy of Dan Moyle

Critchlow brought his traveling alligator show to Mendon Riverfest this summer, and folks were so blown away, that I just had to know more about him. So I tracked down the sanctuary, and talked to David about his mission. Watch the video below about how he got started, and why he believes in what he’s doing.

As you heard in the video, David and his daughter Lina rescued their first gator about 15 years ago, and decided if they were going to continue saving gators, they  wanted to do it right. David and Lina studied under zoo experts, gator gurus and folks from Animal Planet to learn how to properly care for a rescued alligator.  Then a few years ago the town of Athens approved their plans and Critchlow Alligator Sanctuary was born. David works with the animals to train them to respond to commands, so he and Lina can then learn from them through blood samples, microchips and other animal research techniques.

The website calls the sanctuary a “Reptile Rescue Zoo” where amphibians and reptiles find a safe haven to live out their lives with much needed care. These gators come to the Critchlow Sanctuary from all over the region, and from all different backgrounds. The common thread is that someone owned each one as a pet, and the gator just got too big to handle. The good news is that David has a great show-personality and educates visitors through entertainment. These reptiles aren’t going to “ride bicycles or jump through fire” as he says, but they do teach the animals behaviors to help with their management. For instance, David has taught alligators to respond to words to get them into crates instead of wrestling them into crates. It’s a less stressful life for the alligators, and it’s easier on the people!

David takes his show on the road to schools and community events (don’t worry, the alligators are managed with the utmost care for the spectators and the animals) to help educate folks on these living dinosaurs. Coming up in November you can see the alligators up close during the Fall Round Up Event. Hear what David has to say about this in the video below.

  • Fall Round Up at Critchlow Alligator Sanctuary: Saturday/Sunday November 5th and 6th
  • 1:00pm-5:00pm
  • $3 admission
  • (269)729-4802

Critchlow Alligator Sanctuary is alive and well in this 21st century world of technology. It has a Google Places page, complete with reviews. You can also join their group on Facebook.
Fun Fact: There are 23 known species of the crocodilian reptile (crocodiles and alligators) – David told me there’s early movement on splitting one of these to make 24. If this happened, the Nile Crocodile will be split into two groups, giving us a West Nile Croc and East Nile Croc!
For the rest of our interview with David, check out the video below and “Take the Tour.”

Remember: keep your hands away from the mouths of alligators at all times!
~Dan “Lefty” Moyle, Contributing Writer

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