A daring group of alligator wranglers want to prove that age is just a number as a 13-year-old girl joins their ranks.
Jay Young, 45, heads up the Colorado Gator Farm in Mosca, Colorado, with the help of his family and a few close friends. And he has come to rely on one in particular: His brave 13-year-old niece Addie, who helps out with tasks like keeping some of the farm’s 300 gators still when it comes time to transport them to another pond.
It runs in Addie’s blood too. Her cousin, Jay’s daughter Samantha, previously made headlines thanks to a viral video of her with her favorite six-foot alligator when she was a young teen.
Family fun: Jay Young, pictured, is teaching his 13-year-old niece Addie the ropes on the family-run
Like a pro: Addie sits on a small alligator on the farm to keep it steady while they transport it to another pond
Jay said that Addie helps out with the smaller alligators, which is still a potentially deadly task.
He 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. She loves teaching kids about the animals.’
Jay instructs the fearless teen on how to handle them, telling her when to jump on the reptile and hold on tight.
While Addie sits on the gator, Jay clasps its mouth shut.
Calm: The teenager remains calm and cool throughout the alligator wrangling process
The staff hope to decrease fear around animals by teaching kids and teens to respect and understand animals rather than fear them.
Jay said: ‘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.
Along with the team, Jay and Addie wrangle the gators with names like Elvis and Morris when there is a need to do so.
With the conservation of animals at the core of their sanctuary, Jay houses hundreds of gators on his 80-acre site and he interacts with them all.
According to the Colorado Gator Farm website, it was originally a fish farm where gators were purchased to eat the dead fish.
In 1990, public interest in the alligators was so intense that the family opened the farm up to the public and began to run educational classes like how to handle reptiles.
Jay showed off one of the farm’s most talked-about inhabitants, Elvis; a ‘big boy’ who weighs a colossal 650 lbs.
Jay joked that Elvis is now a ‘bachelor’ as he lives alone. He can’t be housed with any ‘roommates’ in his pond or he will kill them due to his staggering size.
‘We only really catch alligators that need to be caught here,’ Jay explained.
‘We 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.
Passionate: Jay, pictured, said Addie loves helping out on the farm and teaching kids about the animals that live there
On the move: Addie watches on as Jay transports an alligator from one pond to another
Hollywood: Morris, an almost 60-year-old alligator, pictured, was previously featured in many movies
The farm also has become a sanctuary for unwanted exotic pets like snakes and spiders.
‘We care for them as best we can. We display them for the public to understand the dangers in owning these pets and we take them to schools for educational programs,’ the website explains.
The majority of animals on site are rescues, something that Jay takes great pride in.
‘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.’
He added: ‘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.’
Rescues: Many of the 300 gators on the farm are rescues, something which Jay, pictured, takes great pride in
Danger: While the work is rewarding, it comes with dangers like being bit or severely scratched by the animals
Sustainable: Jay, 45, said the main focus of the farm right now is to remain eco-conscious
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.’
He demoed how he interacts with Morris, a 60-year-old alligator who worked in Hollywood for 25 years before moving to Colorado Gator Farm.
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.
He explained: ‘The carnivores here eat fish and the herbivores eat plans we grow in the greenhouse.
‘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 but what is going to be left for our kids and grand-kids.
‘It’s all about being responsible stewards – not just to the earth, but to the animals.