Visitors to the Insta-Gator Ranch play ‘mom’ to baby alligators
This working alligator farm, like many businesses, copes with the COVID-19 pandemic
NEW ORLEANS (WVUE) - At the Insta-Gator Ranch & Hatchery outside Covington, the sound of chirping can be heard from inside eggs.
For a few weeks out of the year, from mid-August to about Labor Day, baby gators make a high-pitched sound, a signal to operators that they are ready to hatch.
Insta-Gator is a business with a split personality; part-working farm and part-tourism attraction.
The alligator business was founded in 1989, but by 2001, owner John Price faced a choice: either expand his operation to keep pace with changing business trends or diversify.
“We’ve been doing tours since 2001 and it’s been what helped to keep us alive,” Price said.
While this working ranch offers year-round guided tours, complete with a touch pool, August brings hundreds of newborn gators.
Visitors can hold eggs and give a gentle nudge to a roughly six-inch-long alligator as it enters the world.
“I think it was a wonderful experience,” said visitor Megan Wiggins. “It was so great to see these baby alligators being born and at different times on their own time.”
Louisiana’s alligator population, once on the verge of extinction, represents a conservation success story.
Each year, ranchers gather thousands of alligator eggs from the wild as part of a Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries conservation program.
The state requires them to return roughly 10% of four-foot alligators to the marsh, a higher survival rate than in nature.
Like many businesses, Insta-Gator has struggled through the COVID-19 pandemic, which shut down its tour operation for most of 2020. Now, after a busy summer, Prince worries about a possible drop in travel.
“One of our problems is our main source of revenue is school field trips,” Price said. “We haven’t seen a field trip in a year-and-a-half.”
The alligators should be hatching for the next few weeks.
“We’re hoping that this is going to help us get through the winter,” Price said.
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