Mental Floss

How To: Wrestle an Alligator

Maggie Koerth-Baker
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YOU WILL NEED
1 Alligator, un-sedated and unbowed
1 Person, just a little bit crazy
1 Rope, preferably strong

Do: Check the Classifieds
In 2000, members of the Seminole tribe near Hollywood, Florida put an ad in a local paper. They were looking for a new alligator wrestler. While mano-y-gator conflict is nothing new to the Seminoles (the leathery beasts were once a valuable—and traditionally hand-caught—food source), it's only recently that the tribe has had such hard luck finding people willing to jump in there (i.e. the swamp) and go for it (i.e. pin several-hundred-pound, sharp-toothed creatures to the ground with only their soft and presumably tasty bodies). However, this isn't necessarily a bad thing. Wrestling alligators for the benefit of white tourists used to be one of the few Seminole-friendly job markets in Florida, but that's changed. Seminoles now have improved access to higher education and better paying (and significantly less lethal) jobs. They also tend to own their own tourist attractions now, instead of working for outsiders. All of this adds up to fewer Seminoles willing to meet the continued tourist demand for alligator wrestling—thus, the need for a classified ad.

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Do: Expect to Get Bit
The "wrestling" in alligator wrestling is something of a misnomer. Rather than thrashing about Greco-Roman (or even WWF) style, an alligator wrestler's main goal is to catch an alligator from a pool or pit and then bind its jaws shut with a rope. Along the way, they might perform a few tricks, such as carefully setting their chin on the gator's upturned maw, all while explaining a few interesting tidbits about the animals' habits and biology to the crowd. Despite not being nearly as violent as it sounds, all alligator wrestlers will most likely be bitten at some point. Capturing and pinning a "˜gator requires a significant amount of strength and timing. One wrong move, and your arm or leg could become lunch. In 2006, an alligator took a real-estate baron down a peg when the businessman tried to wrestle the beast on a whim. Florida land-developer Ronald Bergeron suffered several shattered finger bones after he tried to wrestle an alligator during a party. In fact, the 'gator actually dragged Bergeron underwater briefly before party guests were able free him.

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