By Danny Baggott @DAN_BAGGIE
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Videographer / director: Jessica Sherry
Producer: Danny Baggott, Kim Nguyen
Editor: Florence Kennard
A DARING group of alligator wranglers are proving that age is just a number – with a 13-year-old girl joining their ranks.
General Manager, Jay Young, 45, heads up the Colorado Gator Farm with the help of his family and a few close friends.
With the conservation of animals at the core of their sanctuary, Jay houses close to 300 gators on his 80-acre site and he interacts with them all, even Elvis – a colossal gator weighing 650lbs.
Jay and his team only wrangle the gators when there is a need to do so, for example, transporting them to a different pond.
And when it comes to the smaller gators, even Jay’s 13-year-old niece, Addie, helps out with the potentially deadly task.
Jay told Beastly: “Addie is only 13, but she loves playing with the smaller alligators, the snakes and lizards.
“She loves helping out whenever we need it.
“With me, I’ve never been smart enough to be afraid of the alligators.
“If you’re scared, you shouldn’t be around. Fear causes hesitation, which will cause your worst fears to come true.
“You have to be comfortable and confident to be able to deal with animals like this.
“We all respect the animals – but we don’t fear them.”
The majority of animals on site are rescues, something that Jay takes great pride in.
He said: “We only ever catch alligators that need to be caught here.
“We do have an alligator wrestling class, where people can come and learn how to handle them.
“But the purpose of the class is to catch alligators that need to be caught, because where there’s more than one alligator, there’s going to be fights.
“We’re constantly keeping our eye on the population here as we have close to 300 and most of them live with other alligators.”
When interacting with giant gators on a daily basis, there is an inevitable sense of danger that comes with their work.
“If you’re afraid, you’re going to panic and make mistakes,” Jay said.
“It never solves anything. Even if you get bit, you can’t panic.
“We do get minor scratches and we have had worse injuries that require stitches and antibiotics.”
And Gator Caretaker, Conner Mather, added: “I’ve had lots of close calls with alligators. I’ve been bit a number of times.
“It’s just trusting myself and knowing that the alligator is more interested in trying to get the fish than trying to get me.”
The farm is open to the public and Jay admits they get thousands of visitors who stop by to see their animals.
With more than 13,000 followers on their Facebook page, they have also amassed quite the following online.
But Jay remains level-headed and thankful for the team he has around him – Jay’s number one priority will always be his animals.
He said: “We’re trying to have a sustainable eco-system here, recycling everything and growing food for all the animals here ourselves.
“That’s our goal.
“We want to get that message out there, that people need to recycle and think about being sustainable for the earth and think about the future and the future generations and not just about what we can consume today.
“It’s all about being responsible stewards – not just to the earth, but to the animals.”