What to expect from Gator Country’s new TV show

What to expect from Gator Country’s new TV show

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Starting next week, you won’t have to head out to Gator Country Adventure Park to get close to its reptilian stars.

“Texas Gator Savers” will air Nov. 22 on Direct TV and stream on Fubo and AT&T. The show, the first season of which already has been filmed, will take viewers into the world of rescuing alligators that have strayed from their habitat.

But this isn’t Gator Country co-owner Gary Saurage’s first time on TV. His first show, “Gator 911,” aired on Country Music Television in 2010. He also appeared in 11 episodes with “Billy Exterminator” on A&E as well as being featured on “River Monsters” and “Lone Star Law” on Animal Planet.

Although viewers might be tempted to compare him to the Tiger King or the Crocodile Hunter, Saurage says what he does is different. Gator Country is a sanctuary for nuisance alligators, he said.

“We do a job for Parks and Wildlife called nuisance alligator removal,” Saurage said.

When an alligator has been caught too many times or interacted too much with humans, Texas law states the alligator must be euthanized or released to a landowner.

Gator Country gives those alligators a place to live, he said.

“When we go to catch an alligator, that’s because there’s a problem,” he said. “The people don’t want it there. The alligator probably doesn’t really want to be there, either. He wants to be in the wild, but he just got lost and somehow ended up on somebody’s property. If we didn’t catch these alligators, the law says we have to kill them.”

Few landowners are willing to give permission for Texas Parks and Wildlife to release an alligator onto their property, Saurage said.

“Who wants an alligator?” he said. “There are a few landowners that have enough land along the bayou, so sometimes we can find some places, and we try very hard to do that. But as you can imagine, it’s hard to find places to put an alligator. It’s kind of like putting a grizzly bear in somebody’s house. You run out of room.”

While the American Alligator was on the endangered species list in 1968, it was removed in 1987. Despite Texas Parks and Wildlife’s 20-day alligator hunting season, by 2000, more and more interactions were being reported between humans and alligators as gators continued to reproduce and developers built into marshlands.

“Now in 2023, there’s more alligator and people interaction than there has ever been in the state of Texas,” he said. “It’s projected, we’ve got to have 1 million alligators in Texas. Humans are living where alligators are, and that’s when our job comes in, and that’s what our new TV show is all about.”

Alligators are a vital part of the ecosystem, Saurage said, especially during droughts like Southeast Texas experienced this summer. “An alligator out in the wild in the marsh will start making a circle until he digs a hole,” he said. “That will be the last place to go dry. So everything around it — birds, turtles, fish, snakes — they’re all sustained.

“They’re brilliant animals. People don’t understand. They’ve been around for 300 million years. They’re dinosaurs.”

Although alligators can run 22 miles-per-hour on land for short distances, Saurage said, most alligators do not want to chase humans.

“The only reason you’re gonna get chased by an alligator on the land is if there’s a female with a nest and she wants you to back up,” he said. “She’s not trying to make lunch out of you, she just wants you to move.”

The last alligator encounter in Texas that proved fatal to a human happened in Orange back in 2015.

“It was bad timing for the alligator and the human,” Saurage said. “They’re never on land, not gonna happen. It’s in the water. We have 7 million alligators in the United States alone… Seven million alligators interact on a yearly basis with a billion people, and there’s less than one attack a year. That’s pretty good odds.”

Gator Country catches about 250 nuisance alligators each year, Saurage said.

Up to 500 alligators rescued by Gator Country have found homes in other facilities around the country, he said, although three years ago Louisiana stopped allowing alligators to be transported across state lines due to chlamydia infections.

This year, the plan is to release most of the alligators they catch into a large section of marshland near Anahuac.

Saurage has been rescuing alligators for almost 20 years. He bought the alligator farm, located near the Farm Road 365 exit off Interstate 10 in March 2005 — six months before Hurricane Rita. Since then, Gator Country has weathered four other major storms: Tropical Storms Harvey (2017) and Imelda (2019) in addition to Hurricanes Ike (2008) and Laura (2020).

When the surrounding bayous flooded, Gator Country’s residents sometimes escaped their enclosures. Three years ago, Saurage installed an eight-foot fence around the existing four-foot fencing. Now during a flood, the alligators cannot escape the extra barrier, he said.

“I had enough hurricanes,” Saurage said. “We went and put a game fence around the whole place. I was like, You know what? I don’t want these alligators on I-10, causing accidents.”

He also owns alligator facilities in Natchitoches, Louisiana and South Padre Island and networks with other alligator sanctuaries nationwide, including as far away as the Colorado Gators Reptile Park, located in the San Luis Valley of south central Colorado.

Saurage’s interest in alligators stemmed from learning to talk like a coyote after serving in the military, he said. One night while hunting coyotes on the bayou, he saw a 10-foot alligator explode out of the water and take down a calf. He said he never forgot the alligator’s raw power.

Saurage said he believes “Texas Gator Savers” could have as many as five seasons.

“Follow us around as we go under houses and in culverts and remove them from schools and underneath people’s cars,” Saurage said. “It’s going to come on every Wednesday night for 10 weeks straight.”

Written By

Eleanor Skelton