You have reached your limit of free articles this month.

Enjoy unlimited access to SpringfieldNewsSun.com

Starting at just 99¢ for 8 weeks.

GREAT REASONS TO SUBSCRIBE TODAY!

  • IN-DEPTH REPORTING
  • INTERACTIVE STORYTELLING
  • NEW TOPICS & COVERAGE
  • ePAPER
X

You have read of premium articles.

Get unlimited access to all of our breaking news, in-depth coverage and interactive features. Starting at just 99c for 8 weeks.

X

Welcome to SpringfieldNewsSun.com

Your source for Clark and Champaign counties’ hometown news. All readers have free access to a limited number of stories every month.

If you are a News-Sun subscriber, please take a moment to login for unlimited access.

Urbana farm provides new home for alligator

Fish farm owner would like to have up to 12 gators.


Fluffy, a 48-inch alligator with a taste for trout, has more room to roam after his owner put the finishing touches on a new habitat at the Urbana aquafarm where he’s raised.

The new indoor and outdoor habitat was specially built to comply with recent Ohio laws regulating exotic animals, and, if it ever becomes legal, provides enough space for about a dozen full-grown alligators, said Dave Smith, owner of Freshwater Farms of Ohio.

Farming alligators isn’t legal in Ohio now, but it’s common throughout the deep south. Smith said he’ll be ready to raise them if it’s ever permitted locally. The state clamped down on ownership of exotic animals after more than 50 wild animals were released from a Zanesville property in 2011, and deputies killed 49 of the animals to prevent them from escaping into that community. A new state law detailing how the animals must be raised takes full effect early next year.

Fluffy doesn’t look menacing, but his new habitat includes a large mesh fence, glass panels, and a metal barrier to prevent the animal from digging out from under the enclosure.

Smith said he has to be cautious around the animal, but he joked Fluffy is spoiled. When she first arrived, she’d eat any fish she was given. But she developed a taste for a the trout the aquafarm specializes in.

“She’s spit out the other fish and only eats the trout,” Smith said.

Although its illegal to farm them in Ohio now, the U.S. Department of Agriculture lists alligators as an aquaculture species, and Smith said he’d consider adding a few more alligators to the farm if it becomes possible. The farm already raises rainbow trout, sturgeon, perch, shrimp and other species.

Fluffy arrived at Freshwater Farms in 2010 when Champaign County Sheriff’s deputies and wildlife officers captured it near a pond in the 1700 block of Ohio 29 West. The alligator was apparently a pet that was abandoned when it became too large.

The farm will host its annual Ohio Fish and Shrimp Festival on Friday, Saturday and Sunday, giving residents a chance to see Fluffy’s new home.

Although it would be rare, raising alligators on an Ohio farm isn’t impossible, said Jimmy Avery, director of the USDA Southern Regional Aquaculture Center.

“They can be raised indoors essentially anywhere as long as the temperature is high enough,” Avery said.

Most of the farms in the U.S. now are in states like Louisiana, Florida and Georgia. The price farmers can get for the meat and the skin vary from year to year.

“The primary market is the skin,” Avery said. “We are growing those animals for the pelt.”

With a small number of alligators, Smith said it’s unlikely he’d farm the alligators for either meat or their skin, but might find other uses, such as using them to help eliminate dead animals from area chicken farms instead of incinerating them.

If alligators can be raised in Idaho, it’s possible in Urbana, Ohio said Leo Ray, who previously raised hundreds of alligators on his farm in Buhl, Idaho, near the Snake River. A natural hot spring near his Fish Processors Inc. business helped heat the alligators’ habitat.

He eventually stopped raising the animals on a large scale when he discovered they can carry the West Nile Virus. But in some ways, he said colder states like Ohio can be an ideal place to farm alligators, because it’s too cold for them to survive for long and damage the local ecosystem if they escape.

On his farm, he used the the leftovers from the fish he harvested to feed the gators, then processed the animals for their meat and pelts. He said alligator meat now sells for about $9 a pound and is often sold in restaurants as an appetizer to curious diners.

Just because they’re not common doesn’t mean raising them can’t be done, Ray said.

“There are so many things we could be raising in addition to our standard crops,” Ray said.


Reader Comments ...


Next Up in Community News

NASA’s Cassini spacecraft starts historic dive between Saturn and its rings 
NASA’s Cassini spacecraft starts historic dive between Saturn and its rings 

After nearly 20 years in space and 13 years in orbit around Saturn, NASA’s Cassini spacecraft begins its grand finale, going where no craft has gone before. The final mission, according to NASA, involves a “daring” series of dives (22 in total) between Saturn and its icy rings, and ends with Cassini plunging into Saturn’s atmosphere...
Brother shoots, kills 13-year-old sister while playing with gun, police say
Brother shoots, kills 13-year-old sister while playing with gun, police say

Police arrested a 17-year-old on Tuesday night after authorities said he shot and killed his 13-year-old sister in an apparently accidental shooting. Authorities responded to the family’s home in Florida City, Florida, around 6 p.m. after 17-year-old Martaevious Santiago called 911, Miami-Dade police said. Medics with Miami-Dade Fire Rescue found...
Giant 3-foot rabbit found dead on United Airlines flight
Giant 3-foot rabbit found dead on United Airlines flight

While still dealing with legal action and negative public relations after a man was forcibly dragged from a flight, United Airlines is now investigating an incident in which a giant rabbit was found dead aboard one of the airline’s international flights.   >> Read more trending news  According to the ...
Wright-Patterson gate crasher sentenced
Wright-Patterson gate crasher sentenced

A federal judge has sentenced a man who pleaded guilty to trespassing at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base which caused a major disruption that led to an employee evacuation in two buildings and blocked roads to two years probation. Edward J. Novak, 32, of Beavercreek, also will have to comply with mental health counseling and alcohol and chemical substance...
Family recreates Blockbuster for autistic son heartbroken over store’s closure
Family recreates Blockbuster for autistic son heartbroken over store’s closure

A Texas family went the extra mile for their son with autism, recreating his favorite Blockbuster store at their home after the store shut its doors. The Zuniga family’s gesture for their 20-year-old son, Hector Andres Zuniga, went viral this week after his brother, Javier Zuniga, posted photos of the surprise for his older brother on Twitter...
More Stories