Zookeeper Tales Wednesday: I’m gonna spit that out

(..Pretend it’s still Wednesday.

Being sick this week has completely thrown me off schedule.)

Last week, I wrote about being thrown across a room by an alligator.  (Not one of my finest moments.)  And I mentioned that the experience inspired me to have more..fear? respect?..for alligators of a certain size and maturity.  Which is mostly true.

Some lessons have to be learned twice before one really gets it, and Respect of the Gator was in that category for me.  My only defense is that the large alligators we had were always so incredibly mellow.  Or tiny.  So while Dead, Snappy, and Mr Big were originally difficult simply because of their weight, Baby Gator was difficult because she was so small…maybe the length of my forearm.

Baby grew up to be a toothy force of nature all her own, and I’ll tell that story next week.  But for now, I want to jump ahead to a time when Baby Gator had earned herself a roomy tank all her own in the middle back of our reptile room.

I don’t have photos of the room set-up – alas! – but each of our animal rooms at the mini zoo were fully visible to the public, with showcase cages in the front and webcams set up in select cages near the back so people could get a variety of views of who was living where.  There was no view inside Baby Gator’s tank, and it wouldn’t surprise me at all to learn that the average person didn’t think there was anything living inside the large black-sided container.

..Until the day I was feeding critters, and Baby Gator was on the list of critters being fed.  I walked past her tank, dropped a dead rat in with her, and kept on going.  This means I missed her literally fling the rat back at me.

As I headed back to the kitchen, passing through the public area, some wide-eyed visitors asked me what the hell was in that tank, and why was it throwing rats at me?


And people wonder why I loved that job so much.

(Not Baby Gator, but she was about this size when I first met her.  This little guy is being handled by the man who trained me how to wrangle reptiles – Bar Carter, the best damn reptile keeper I know.)


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