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Gator Girl

Shelby is pretty much your typical, all-American girl. She’s in the 4th grade at the school down the street and she likes living out in the country on Louisiana’s Gulf Coast. She has a pig named “Tiny” that she’s raising for 4H . . . and she once had a pet alligator named “Wild Cajun.”

In fact, Shelby is pretty much surrounded by alligators all the time. Not only does her father Ben Welch operate an alligator farm, but she’s got a few dozen wild alligators running around her own backyard. Growing up with gators is a lot of fun, she thinks.

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One of the wild alligators in Shelby's backyard; Cameron Parish, Louisiana (AE, NGS)

“Holding a baby alligator is like holding a baby dinosaur,” she explains. Every year, when the alligator eggs hatch, Shelby helps her dad by holding the eggs and then holding the  baby alligators when they come out of the shell.

“They’re slimy . . .and gross!” She laughs, but also thinks they are very cute. Every year, she enjoys playing with all the baby alligators and helping take care of them.

In addition to her parents’ business Airboats & Alligators, Shelby’s dad is a licensed distributor for wild-caught gators. During the 30-day fall hunting season, he might have up to 700 alligators on his property.

“The big ones have big teeth — really big teeth,” says Shelby. But, she explains, as long as you don’t tease them, they won’t bother you.

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Shelby Welch displays an alligator skull at her home in Cameron Parish, Louisiana (AE,NGS)

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