By Jaymee Johnson, Producer Swamp Men
Swamp Men airs Mondays at 8P et/pt.
Pulling up to Billie Swamp Safari I wasn’t really sure what to expect. We had driven through Alligator Alley to get there and I saw plenty of prehistoric looking reptiles along the way, but nothing could have prepared me for the wild alligator encounters we were about to experience first hand.
We met up with BSS Park Director, Ed Woods, as he made his morning rounds. We were only a few minutes into our shoot when he got an alarming call. Apparently an 11-foot “gator,” as they call it in the swamp, was spotted hanging around the tourist airboat dock. Obviously alligators and tourists frequenting the same area, is not a good idea, so Ed called on Florida gator legend, Paul to help him out.
When we got to the boat dock, Paul surprisingly just walked right into the water and started feeling around under the boat dock for the alligator. The whole time I’m thinking to myself, what’s he going to do if he finds it? I think you’ll be thoroughly entertained when you see what happened next.
The following day we head out on the airboats with Ed, Paul and the two newest members of the team, Shea and Matt. The goal was for Ed to teach the two newbies how to handle wild gators. We get to an ominous looking spot in the swamp and the guys all jump in and start moving the water around, hoping to attract the attention of alligators, AND they did. Within a few minutes, rather large looking reptiles start narrowing in on the guys. At one point, Shea asks Marine veteran Ed, “What would you do in this situation if you were in combat? ” Ed, cold faced, replies, “Start shooting.” So we did, with our cameras of course. Our two camera guys, and sound guy were waist deep in the water with the alligators quickly closing in. Despite a few close calls and one major newbie mistake, Shea and Matthew learned a lot that day and walked away with all of their fingers.
The last day was probably the most intimidating excursion of the shoot. We all loaded up on swamp buggies and headed out to a controlled habitat which is home to a large bull gator known as Trump. And as far as gators go, which I am quickly becoming an expert on, Trump is major! He’s about 12 feet long and weighs a lot! Along with Trump, inside the enclosure, is a lady alligator. Recently the two gators had babies and Ed was concerned that if they were not removed, Trump would eat all of his young. So today’s mission was for Ed and his men to enter into the hostile environment of an angry male gator and an even more pissed off momma gator and grab as many babies without getting bit. Right off the bat, Trump and the momma gator challenged Ed, his men and our camera crew. Let me just say that these two gators were not going to let those babies go without a fight.
All in all, I walked away from the shoot, with a new understanding of alligators, and with a whole lot of respect for the brave employees of Billie Swamp Safari, where jumping on the back of an 11-foot reptile is somehow, just another day at work.