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Is the popular show “Gator Boys” fake? Or is Gator Boys real? State wildlife officials are saying the group of alligator wrestlers and rescuers have used captive alligators to reenact scenes of the show.
In other words, at least according to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, the show may not as real as it appears to be. And they also seem to think the Gator Boys perform high risk techniques they would never let their officers use.
From the SunSentinel:
But the Gator Boys have also seized the attention of state wildlife officers, who say the team appears to have staged at least part of their show using captive alligators and used dangerous methods to handle them.
Paul Bedard, one of the two trappers, said none of the show was faked. He said they reenacted a couple of events for promotional commercials. He attributed the state’s review to irritation that he allowed the captures to be filmed without first informing the agency.
The show, which premiered Jan. 1 and airs Sunday evenings, follows Bedard and younger colleague Jimmy Riffle as they go on nuisance alligator calls from their base at Everglades Holiday Park in western Broward County. Unlike typical trappers, who kill the alligators for their meat and hides, the Gator Boys release them unharmed into the wild.
The show whips up the drama with dustups among the various characters who work with Riffle and Bedard, including a volunteer named Ashley whose enthusiasm exceeds her ability. [“When Ashley endangers her life in the gator pit, Jimmy accuses Chris of poor training methods,” states the online episode guide. “As tempers flare they must work through the anger and do a seminar or ruin their reputation.”]
Lindsey Hord, coordinator of the nuisance alligator program for the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, said the inquiry started when a wildlife officer encountered Bedard and Riffle at a restaurant on U.S. 27 in Broward County reenacting a previous capture.
“They told the officer they were using a captive alligator,” he said. “Apparently they were reenacting an incident that supposedly occurred with an alligator on the grounds.”
The use of captive alligators is troubling, he said, given the dangerous techniques they use, such as wading into the water with the alligators and wrestling with them.
“Our nuisance alligator trappers are required to use safe handling techniques,” he said. “All that wrestling they do, getting in the water with gators, is all potentially dangerous and we would not allow our nuisance alligator trappers to do that sort of thing. If these are captive alligators they’re handling, they’re different from the wild ones. They’re not as afraid of people as a wild one would be. We hope people don’t watch this show and say I see how they do it, and try it with wild alligators.”
Although Bedard said that incident was reenacted for a commercial, Riffle said it was one of a few incidents staged for the show. “For some of the catches, some of them are reenactments,” he said. “But 95 percent of the show is legit.”
Bedard said they use wild alligators only and their methods are more humane that the huge hooks and lines used by traditional trappers.
“I’d rather catch them by hand than with a rope and a hook,” he said. “It’s more animal friendly…. If we have a gator in a pool, I don’t want to put a rope around him and drag him out because he’ll smash his face up.”
Katie Purcell, spokeswoman for the wildlife commission’s law enforcement division, said the focus of the inquiry was on the handling of alligators.
“In the episodes currently being shown, their actions aren’t in line with our standard procedures for safely handling nuisance alligators,” she said. “We are reviewing the episodes to ensure that the species is being managed appropriately.”
Patricia Kollappallil, Animal Planet’s vice president for communications, said the channel would look into the show’s practices.
“Animal Planet’s top concern is for the safety and well-being of the animals in Gator Boys,” she wrote in an email. “Our interest in airing the show is because animals were being rescued. We are not aware of any violations but, of course, will be looking into it.”
So… is the Gator Boys fake? Obviously not. Paul Bedard and the other alligator rescuers do a wonderful FREE service for the public. And they have been doing it for years. Bedard and Riffle have been handling alligators for over 20 years each. They are experts even if their actions aren’t in line with with the standard procedures for safety handling nuisance alligator as defined by the state. Is it possible the Gator Boys know more and are better at it?
And they are entertainers. They do an alligator wrestling “show” at Everglades Holiday Park. People want to see things that are… or appear to be… risky. I remember as a little kid watching Evel Kenevel jump his motocycle over rows of cars, busses and a shark tank in Las Vegas. Heck, he even attempted to jump across the Snake River in some sort of a rocket. Was Evel Kenevel in compliance with the state Division of Motor Vehicle rules and regulations? Should he have been stopped simply because what he was doing was dangerous to himself? If so, then I’m sure the X Games will be outlawed next.
And here’s the real issue: Who is the state protecting… the alligators or the Gator Boys? If the Gator Boys methods are as humane – or more humane – than the state’s… is the state trying to protect the Gator Boys from themselves? And do we really want that as a “free” society?
For more about the Gator Boys and videos go here: Gator Boys
Update to this article…
John Pate and his clients catching big bass – VIDEO
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