Savannah Boan wanted to be a Disney Princess, became a gator expert instead

Gatorland park director shares long road to becoming a reptile researcher

ORLANDO, Fla. – When many people think of wildlife experts in Central Florida, they think of Savannah Boan.

She is the Park Director and Crocodilian Enrichment Coordinator at Gatorland.

But, if you ask her, what brought her to Central Florida was the allure of Disney World.

“(I) ran away to Florida when I was 16 years old because I wanted to be Cinderella,” she said. “Of course, Disney doesn’t hire 16-year-old runaways and I was way too tall to be Cinderella.”

So she started applying to work at Gatorland. The gator pro said it took seven years to get a gig at the wildlife park and once she came on board she never looked back.

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“I’m so honored every day that I get to come to work with these amazing dinosaurs,” she said.

Boan now focuses her time caring for alligators and crocodiles, working to protect their habitats and educating the community about the reptiles.

She recently took Florida’s Fourth Estate hosts Matt Austin and Ginger Gadsden around the wildlife park to talk about gator mating season.

The season typically starts in April, but Boan said this year’s unseasonable heat caused the reptiles to get friskier faster and all that mating means gators are moving around more.

You can listen to every episode of Florida’s Fourth Estate in the media player below:

Boan said big gators can be territorial which sends the younger ones on the prowl.

“They want to have a girlfriend too. So they might pop into a pond and then the big bull alligator that’s been there for 20 years doesn’t like that, so he’s gonna run them out. When they run out, they’re just running. They’re not thinking, ‘Oh, well, don’t let me go over to Dan’s pond. Let me go over to Jake’s.’ They’re just going in whichever pond they can find, and going through the canals like underneath the water through sewer pipes and things like that,” she said.

Boan warns people during this time of increased activity to “just be aware of your surroundings everywhere you are.”

Boan also said you may hear gators being noisier this time of year.

“It sounds like big, huge bellows, like dinosaur roars, like ‘ROAARRRRRR,’” she said.,

Boan also draws comparisons between gators in the pond and men at the bar.

“The big male alligators are sucking in all that air and they are puffing themselves up to show off like guys at a bar when it’s late at night and you know they are all puffed up and the water dances on the back and they just want all the ladies, the bigger they are the more ladies are coming around them,” Boan said.

She said when Gatorland guests walk by the breeding marsh they may notice the first signs of alligator courtship. She said it can begin with the male alligators blowing bubbles and if the female gator is interested, she might come over to him.

“They might rub each other’s faces because they have these sensors on their faces that are like 100 times more sensitive than your fingertips,” she said.

Boan said once the eggs are laid, “alligator moms protect their entire nest.”

“They will defend it at any cost,” she added. “So, if you see a big mound of anything anywhere in the state of Florida, don’t go near it. And if you see baby hatchling alligators, sometimes they will protect them for up to a year and sometimes even more. Do not grab baby hatchling alligators. They’re gonna make a noise like this, ‘ERRR ERRR,’ and that’s them calling their mama and when their mama gets there that’s when the trouble starts.”

Boan advises people to stay away from gators and never feed them in the wild.

If you want to feed gators and get up close and personal with them Boan said you can do so safely at Gatorland.

To learn more about gator mating season and Boan’s passion for alligators and crocodiles check out Florida’s Fourth Estate. You can download it from wherever you listen to podcasts or watch anytime on News 6+.

About the Author:

Tiffany produces the News 6+ Takeover at 5:30 p.m., Florida's Fourth Estate and Talk to Tom.