Reptilian Recreation

[Here I’m hoping to save all my contributions to Patch.com for posterity as the site itself slides into electronic oblivion. Please note that this article is extremely outdated; so the Alligator Attraction is still open, but with (in many cases) different featured gators and staff. In fact, I believe they’re working on expanding their second location as I update this page (09/02/13).]

—Reptilian Recreation—

Using alligators to beat your children’s summertime blues.

Summer break has barely started and children are already starting to get bored.  While beach trips may have lost their luster, there’s another option.

The antidote to this incarnation of the dreaded beach blues is as natural to Florida as sand, seagrass, and sailboats: the alligator. Real, live, alligators.

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John’s Pass is an affordable place to learn about and experience these reptiles up close.  A veritable alligator training camp, owner/trainer/”Gator Crusader,” Michael Womer has built an alligator haven on Madeira Beach.

A native of Madeira Beach, Womer has loved alligators his whole life.  After gator wrestling for years, Womer started adapting dolphin training techniques to alligators.  Stressing that gators “can’t be tamed, but can be trained,” Womer made a name for himself by training 7 year-old Chewie, who became a star of Animal Planet and various commercials.

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It’s this training alligators to do basic commands: open their mouthes, hold their heads in place and other tricks that differentiates the Alligator Attraction from other Florida gator exhibits. 

Kids do more than just feed the alligators, here they learn about how alligators track and capture their food, Womer said.  Rather than just throw food into an enclosure, children are challenged to make the gators to leap for their food; just as they would have to in the wild.

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Another popular attraction is the aforementioned Chewie, who holds center stage with his own training show. 

A demonstration where Womer shows what basic commands a gator can learn after a lifetime of training.  The show-stopper, Womer climbs into the enclosure with Chewie and walking him around, posing him, and will even use a guest’s camera to snap a up-close and personal photo of Chewie for a unforgettable memento.

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The Alligator Attraction is open seven days a week (11AM-9PM; except on Sundays where it opens at Noon).  Entry is $2/adult, $1/child, or $5/family.  There’s various activity packages available, ranging from just feeding/training alligators ($5), to the top of the line “Gator Trainer” ($29.99; allowing one to feed, and hold* a gator, as well as getting a commemorative Gator Trainer T-shirt and sticker, a glow in the dark bracelet, and an alligator tooth).  Call (727) 858-8199 for more information.

Safety is, of course, first and foremost here, so there’s always an attendant on hand near the alligators; who, if they’re being handled, have their mouth taped shut with specially designed gator tape.

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2 Responses to “Reptilian Recreation”

  1. I am so scared to see one…I might flip out..nah but watching it on tv is different in real life. lol cool post.
    Richardo

    • I didn’t flip out until the Gator Crusader walked behind Chewie to talk to the crowd. Leaving me looking straight at this 7-foot alligator who was 5 small feet away. Then I started to worry.

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