Mosca, Colo. -- The West is in drought, and where …

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Mosca, Colo. -- The West is in drought, and where …


Dan Schwartz.






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Mosca, Colo. -- The West is in drought, and where the clouds in this high desert are heavy snow, not rain, falls from the sky. White mountains on the horizon stand like fences built to hold in the cold. But in these plains is an oasis with a million sharp teeth. // Five ball pythons named Saudi, Danny, Alien, Frank and Zed curled in a cage. A jungle carpet python, Venus, and two Nile crocodiles, Isis and Daniel. A gopher snake, bearded dragons, two Asian monitor lizards. A single piranha. An iridescent shark catfish. A Plecostomus! Water moccasins: diamond heads twitching behind glass. So many creatures in a room built for grain that the tattooed girl working at Colorado Gators can only guess there are more than 200, many more. // In 1977, a family from Texas bought land here to raise tilapia to ship to Denver. But the slaughtering produced mounds of severed heads, tails, guts and skin. So in 1987, they bought 100 baby alligators. "The alligators were brought in to, say, alleviate this problem of us having a big, smelly pile of fish out there." Noah Mather, a large man in a red-gray beard, stood next door to the reptiles in a greenhouse with bamboo and vats of pale fish swimming in all cardinal directions. He tugs his beard as he talks. "Right now, you see them as alligators, but when they were looking at them, they saw them no different than any other livestock." Elvis, the one in the photo, is from the beginning. But many more now curl black under Colorado's sun. // Soon after the gators, came the people, so many of them they started charging. And then, "because we had the alligators, people were like, 'Hey, I've got a big snake. Can you take it?" They took the sharks, too, from the failing Denver restaurant, but they declined the lions and tigers. They don't know felines. "We're not going to take on animals and mistreat them." // But why of all states Colorado? Noah and I walk to a rock-lined pond, and to answer my question he tells me to stick my hand in. There are only little fish. "You stuck your hand in here. This is pretty warm." Without the 87-degree geothermal water bubbling beneath the earth, he says, there'd be no alligators north of Alamosa.




Dan Schwartz., “Mosca, Colo. -- The West is in drought, and where …,” The InstaEssay Archive, accessed August 5, 2020,