Gator Boys' Jimmy Riffle and Ashley Lawrence on Fear, Subtitles, and Mississippi Mud
For most people, wrestling deadly swamp-dwellers is the stuff nightmares are made of, but for the Gator Boys, it's all in a day's work. These South Florida-based wranglers are famous for capturing nuisance alligators in the Everglades, and last year the antics of Paul Bedard, Jimmy Riffle and team became Animal Planet's newest hit, capturing close to 1 million viewers.
Believe it or not, the group are actually animal rescuers. Where other trappers kill gators for their meat and skin, the Gator Boys relocate 'em.
For season two, due to construction underway at their home base of Everglades Holiday Park, the team spent some time in Mississippi instead. The new season premiered last night. Cultist spoke to Jimmy Riffle and team member Ashley Lawrence on life in Mississippi, fear, and subtitled Southern accents.
Cultist: How did you get into this field?
Jimmy Riffle: It all started when I was younger. My mom's brother used to bring some smaller alligators to the house, wild pigs, and it kind of got me into liking wildlife. At 11, my mom got me a volunteer job at a zoo, the native village. I started catching gators and wrestling gators and it started from there and turned into what it is today.
Ashley, what's it like being a woman in a field like yours?
Ashley: You know there are definitely unique challenges working in any field where it's sterotypically a male dominated type of field. I do get a lot of silly questions, a lot of silly looks from people that are confused at why I would choose to do this. When you're working with dangerous animals it's kind of like, the animals sort you out. If you can't do it, you figure it out pretty quick. If you're not strong enough or smart enough, you can't fool yourself or anyone else because the animals will sort you out. It's when I'm standing around meeting people when things get a little irritating. Sometimes there are sideways comments and things, but when you're in the moment of working with the animals, I think people are amazed or impressed but people hold their tongues.
What kind of skills do you think it takes to do what you do?
Ashley: I think I've gotten away with what I've been doing because of my ability to read animal behavior. I don't know if it's that I had a knack for it or it's something that I can focus on really well. Because I can read the animals to a certain degree, I think it saves me the unnecessary wrestling. Whether it's horses, cows or gators, if you can read the animal and anticipate, you can often manipulate them in different ways that makes it a lot easier.
Jimmy:You just gotta know what you're dealing with. I've been working with gators for a long time. Just being able to read the alligator, read their body language, body positions, basically anyone could do it; you just have to start somewhere. If you've been working with them for a good amount of time you just have to be able to read their body language.