Paul Bedard of Gator Boys fame says gators can start behaving like puppies if they get used to you

He has had a five centimetre hole ripped in his arm by an alligator. He has been bit in the head five times, had fingers crushed, hands crushed. He was even bitten by a rattlesnake, which he considers his worst bite so far because it set him back the longest and was forced to take vials of anti venom.

But it still doesn’t stop Paul Bedard of the Gator Boys fame with his partner Jimmy Riffle, from going back to rescue nuisance reptiles in the Florida Everglades from trappers, who would otherwise kill them for their skin and meat.

“I started the rescue programme about seven years ago. Nuisance alligator trappers in Florida don’t get paid by the state or the landowner; they get paid with the meat and hide of the alligator. So they basically harvest the animal, and I didn’t like the way that was working out, so I decided to just get involved and do what I did to save some of these gators,” says Paul over e-mail.

“The gators are like my kids, I love them. I don’t feel like I’m trying to save the species, it’s just I have a lot of alligators myself that are like my kids, after a while I can turn them into puppy dogs, where I can pet their face, I can kiss them on the nose, they won’t try to bite. I always look at those gators and think; I wonder how many more of those gators have been killed? I could never kill one. So I just want to save as many as I can, and relocate them to a preserve.”

Not only that, though the alligators are strong and powerful, they can hurt themselves because they get violent when they perceive an attack, says Paul. “So I try to go in and use the safest method for both of us, the animal and ourselves. And Jimmy and I have so much experience with them. We know what we can get away with and what we can’t. So if we can pull a gator, let’s say out of a swimming pool, without getting him hurt, I’d rather do that. If I were, for example, to put a rope around a gator in swimming pool with a concrete bottom and concrete edges, when you pool them out, they’ll go into what people commonly refer to as a ‘death roll’,” he explains.

“They’ll just spin in circles, out of control and smash his face on the surface. It’s easier for me to just go in the water, play with him a little bit, get him tired, and then grab him in a bear hug and walk him out. We want to catch as many as we can and just release them into a natural preserve or a sanctuary. They can’t be relocated because they often return to where they came from.”

Paul’s interest in the animal world goes back to his childhood, living in Southeastern New England, where he spent most of his time outdoors in the woods exploring nature and looking for animals. By the time he was in his 20s, he was already an elite level tri-athlete, a passion that remains a part of his life till today. “It wasn’t something that really I set out to do. I was very interested in alligators, and snakes, and sharks when I was a young kid, I used to race triathlons competitively, and I would just follow the good weather around.”

How does he balance his interests in the outdoors? “I actually have a job for three or four months a year where I’m a life guard in Massachusetts. And we do other work with films, apart from TV shows. So if I am not catching gators, I’m either running, biking, swimming, or sleeping.”

Paul believes that alligators are not that dangerous. “I’ve had some alligators over the years that become like little puppy dogs. I always tell people here in Florida more people are killed each year by golf balls, lighting, and falling coconuts than they are by alligators. So if they were that bad there’d be bodies piling up everywhere.”

Gator Boys premieres every Monday to Friday at 10 p.m. on Discovery Channel.