Captive alligator at Lake Tobias lays eggs, builds nest in exhibit


Something wild is happening in Dauphin County that hasn’t happened in several decades–a captive alligator at Lake Tobias Wildlife Park is honing its parental instincts.

“Well, we’re very excited to have an alligator nest for once in our exhibit. It’s been 1988 since the last one was here,” said Jan Tobias-Kiefer.

Now 30 years, later Randi the alligator is following in the footsteps. Back then, eggs laid by another female gator were removed artificially, incubated, and hatched. One of those baby gators is now adult male “Spike.” If the eggs are fertile you can call either him or “Big Bob” daddy.

Right now, there are 23 eggs. 

Alligators don’t provide heat for their nest but females do protect them aggressively. The goal is to allow Randi to nest naturally but zookeepers do have to distract her daily to take the temperature of the nest.

“It does need to be somewhere between 82 and 93 in order to be successful. Being this far north, it would be the fartherest north, possibly, of a hatching out in the wild like this. But it is a gamble,” said Tobias-Kieffer.

There are lots of questions about what’s normal for a southern species now nesting in the north.

“If we get 23 baby alligators, we’d be thrilled. But our general curator has made arrangements to send those baby alligators to another zoo that does specialize in alligators,” said Tobias-Kieffer.

If the eggs are viable the staff at Lake Tobias should see little gators coming out of the nest sometime around early October. 

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