Colorado Gator Farm recovering from predawn fire


Photo by Patrick Shea The Reptile Barn at the Colorado Gator Farm caught fire before sunrise on April 18, killing snakes, lizards, and tortoises that were in the barn. The Colorado Gator Farm is home to 270 crocodiles and alligators. This photo was taken before a predawn fire on April 18 that destroyed the Reptile Barn.

HOOPER — Less than a week after a predawn fire torched the Reptile Barn at the Colorado Gator Farm on April 18, operators confronted a variety of unexpected challenges.

According to family co-owner Erin Young on April 25, all the surviving animals have been moved to safety, but the demolition and rebuilding operations will require more moves after they restore exhibits and make changes. As they shuffle survivors and continue to care for them, they continue to discover more work to be done in the charred rubble.

At the same time, while crews continued cleaning over the weekend, a group of alligators decided to move to a new pond on the geothermal property. This required a small but unexpected change in procedure.

Then the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) demanded the facility's immediate closure. Officials from Colorado Gator Farm took time away from their clean-up effort to issue the following response.

“We take every concern seriously, and work closely with CPW in resolving any issues. We have always been committed to providing the best care possible for all the rescues, even when they come to us in poor condition. We spend tens of thousands of dollars each year on veterinary care. We have been constantly upgrading our facilities every year, as many of our regular visitors can tell you, and constant improvement is our mission. While we are devastated and heartbroken about our recent tragedy, we still have hundreds of healthy animals to care for. Thousands have offered love and support and urged us to continue. We are already getting calls about more animals in need and will take them in as soon as our new facility is ready. Thank you for your continued support,” CGF officials stated.

CPW Southwest Region Public Information Officer John Livingston issued the following statement regarding the Colorado Gator Farm.

"The Colorado Gator Farm is a licensed zoological park,” Livingston stated. “It is subject to inspections from CPW, has met all the minimum requirements to maintain its license and has accommodated additional recommendations made previously by CPW. We hate to hear about any kind of incident like this fire where animals have been harmed in any way."

Organized by Mark Young on behalf of Lynne Young, a GoFundMe campaign with a goal of raising $150,000 had gathered $54,318 from 646 donations within a week. The comments from donors consistently praise the Young family for their stewardship of the enterprise. They receive an estimated 40,000 visitors every year.

Members of the Mosca-Hooper Volunteer Fire Department rescued a tortoise called Thing 2, and Jay Young discovered Thing 4 in the rubble, a red-foot tortoise. In total, they saved eight of roughly 40 tortoises. The lone survivor among approximately 50 lizards is called Phoenix. The 270 crocodiles and alligators survived, and the surviving Tilapia and sharks in different buildings are now roommates with displaced survivors.

Eight full-time employees are helping to clean up and enhance the Colorado Gator Farm. Volunteers have showed up with elbow grease, and others continue to donate funds to help reopen the operation.