Alligators weather winter at local sanctuary

Critchlow Alligator Sanctuary
An alligator at the Critchlow Alligator Sanctuary north of Athens. (Jan. 11, 2018)


ATHENS TOWNSHIP, Mich. (WOOD) — Michigan winters can be tough on even the hardiest of souls. That’s why cold-blooded creatures like alligators don’t stand a chance — unless they live in the Athens area.

It may be the dead of winter, but don’t tell that to the alligators at Critchlow Alligator Sanctuary just north of Athens.

“This is Godzilla’s habitat,” Peter Critchlow, who helps operate the sanctuary, said Thursday as he showed 24 Hour News 8 one of its largest alligators. “He makes a lot of noise, so don’t be alarmed.”

The most recent cold snap went all the way into natural alligator habitats in Florida. Though the gators were frozen in ice, they were still alive.

“They’ll do that in North Carolina, even southern Tennessee, northern Georgia,” Critchlow said.

But Godzilla and all the other alligators at the sanctuary stayed cozy and warm in shipping containers. They go into the containers the end of October and are let out the beginning of May.

“We have 11 of these shipping containers,” Critchlow said.

Each container is insulated and heated all winter. It’s kind of like hibernation.

“There’s also heaters under the tubs,” Critchlow said. “These are waterbed heaters under the plastic tubs.”

Critchlow said the alligators aren’t fed in the winter.

“A big alligator with a thick tail can go up to two years without food,” Critchlow said.

All of the alligators at the sanctuary are rescued, usually from people who bought them as pets.