Professional Alligator Wrestler
“I have been told girls shouldn’t or couldn’t alligator wrestle, but it has never stopped me because it makes me happy.”
Gator wrestling! Not much tops it. It’s as crazy as it gets. Gator wrestling is hard to top.
I was working at a park and I been in the zoo department working with animals. I wanted a change and I had friends that were in entertainment end of it. So, I started doing shows and performing with animals. Then I started doing shows with alligators. I began with shows doing feedings. I also did snake shows with venomous and non-venomous snakes. Finally I got into gator wrestling.
It’s not something you read in a book. There is not a “Gator Wrestling for Dummies.” You learn as you go along. You begin working with a taped gator mouth and then eventually an untapped gator mouth. When you make the transition to untapped it’s really, “sink or swim.” The training period depends on what you are doing with the gator (the stunts or tricks). But you definitely need to build up your strength. It takes several weeks to learn to feel comfortable. How quickly you pick it up depends on you and the difficulty of the stunt.
There are a few women wrestlers but not nearly as many as the men. It certainly isn’t as common. Most people don’t believe me when I tell them I am alligator wrestler because it’s usually done by big men. However, most people say, “that’s so cool” when they realize that’s what I really do for a living.
There is a lot of danger. People have gotten bit in the face and the head. One slip up and you can lose a finger or a body part.
I have gotten bitten on my right forearm by a four foot gator. I got stitches at the hospital and it covered the circumference of my arm. It was a very bad bite. I had to have the muscles repaired because it was deep. It happened so fast I don’t remembered it even happening. I didn’t notice it until I saw it. The gator did a lot of thrashing – so my arm really ripped open. I could hear it popping and crunching. Adrenaline kicked in and I walked away like nothing happened. Then I looked at it and saw how bad it was and suddenly I got nauseous and dizzy. But I was calm. The ambulance arrived… and I hate needles so the worst part was when I got the IV. There is a big risk of infection with alligator bites so they didn’t operate until four days later. My physical therapy lasted for a month.
I love doing it. I didn’t think I would love it, but I do. I love it because it is a thrill, but additionally, it’s about educating the public. Wrestling is cool, but I like to add information and education. Alligators are not as bad as people make them out to be.
There entire body is a muscle. A gator that weighs as much as I do can overpower me. Not just the strength in their body but especially in their jaws. Their bite strength is 2000 lbs of force per square inch or more. By comparison a Great White Shark’s jaw strength is approximately 1,000 lbs. Gators can crush a turtle shell easier than a car. They have the strongest bite of any animal on the planet.
It’s a little of both. It does take strength. There is an art form. There is a technique. I have a challenging time with the bigger gators because they are enormously powerful creatures. A lot of the success in alligator wrestling comes from form and technique – the art of it.
Obviously, we are not hurting the alligators. It is completely safe and they are not abused. The wrestling puts a lot more wear and tear on the humans – with back problems, etc.
A combination. We use all different types of gators. If the alligators are too tame you’ll get a boring show. They become desensitized. Wild gators are more high strung, and they can put on a better show. You want the audience to see natural alligator behavior. With wild gators you need to be on your toes because they move very quickly and they are on edge. When an alligator has just come out of the wild they are leaner, faster and have a quicker response.
There is a difference. During mating season males are more aggressive if there are a combination of males and females in the pit. They are looking for dominance. During nesting season, however, the female are more aggressive. They are looking for a good spot to lay and protect their eggs. However, just looking at alligators it is difficult to tell the difference and they are equally as strong when they are equal in size.
More nervous than scared… I have been performing for 5 years and I still get nervous going out in front a large audience of people. I try not to be scared because when you’re scared you make mistakes. It’s a nerve-racking profession and you need to use caution. I have a lot of respect for the gators and you need to know what you’re doing.
A Swimsuit. It goes with me everywhere. You never know when you’ll need one.