The name may sound like some race of mutant monsters from a 1970s comic book, but trust us, the Swamp Men are utterly human guys, just trying to do their jobs. It’s their workplace environment that is off the chain.
You hear a lot about the startling biodiversity of the Amazon rainforest, but when it comes to animal life, the Big Cypress Swamp on the edge of the Everglades in Florida, is pretty rambunctious too. On the Billie Swamp Safari, a massive park run by the Seminole Tribe of Florida, you’ve got ostriches, bears, bison, alligators, venomous snakes, wild hogs, raccoons and other creatures roaming wild. Now, somebody’s got to keep the place safe for visitors, relocate dangerous animals, and rescue other ones in need of help. And that’s where park director Ed Woods — not to be confused, btw, with Ed Wood, the 1950s monster movie director — and his crew of intrepid Swamp Men come in.
Here’s Ed, talking about a typical day on the job, dealing with an uncooperative, 500-pound alligator:
So it’s time to get out the rope. Now, lassoing large, powerful reptiles in Florida is a time-honored practice. This article from the 1919 American Museum of Natural History journal explains how to rope an American crocodile for purposes of, well…taking a picture.
Here’s another page 107 of A.W. Dimrock’s 1915 book, “Florida Enchantments,” you can see a period photograph of crocodile wranglers and their quarry. (I particularly like the mustachioed gent on the right, the one clad in a spiffy-looking pith helmet.) Sounds like good rollicking Theodore Roosevelt-style naturalist fun, doesn’t it? Ed’s version, though, is a bit more, well, realistic.
That’s just a sample of the hair-raising stuff that’s all part of a day’s work for the boys. For more thrills, tune-in to Swamp Men on Nat Geo Wild Mondays at 8 pm et/pt.