More About Gatorman: Why I Do What I Do
By: Glenn Wilsey, Sr.
Gatorman and friend
My name is Glenn W. Wilsey Sr., but growing up in Floridas Everglades Ive been given the name GATORMAN. I was fortunate to be able to grow up in the Florida everglades on the Tamiami trail, US 41.
My parents new that I would want to play and interact with the animals that I would come in contact with. Mom and Dad taught me a couple of simple rules about getting along with the animals. The first thing I was taught is; that I am nothing more than another animal in the Everglades. They explained to me that I just happened to be a human animal. They said that any mistake I make could be my last mistake, just like any other animal in The Everglades.
Mom and Dad taught me all they could about the number 1 predator in the Everglades, yes, the number 1 predator in the glades is "MR. ALLIGATOR." The rules are simple.
1) Do not feed the alligators. I heard that one, time and time again. Its not good to let an alligator become dependant on humans for food. The alligator will keep coming back for food and looking at the hand that fed him. If the hand all of a sudden doesnt have food, the alligator will snap at that hand just to make sure. Most people that are bitten by alligators are bitten on the hand. That usually happens at a park or recreation area. Yeah, its too easy to figure out what they were doing.
Jose Novo, feeding his alligator during a show.
2) Never stand between the alligator and the water. The water is the alligators safety zone and the alligator will always run for the water every time. If you are in the way, the alligator may bite you along the way. The alligator will not drag you into the water like they do on TV.
Stepping between the alligator and the water
3) They told me if for some reason an alligator "did" bite me, I was never to fight the alligator back. If you dont fight the alligator back there is a "good" chance he will let you go and leave. Fight the alligator back "at all" and he will lock down with up to 2,000 pounds of biting pressure. You cant get away from that and the more you fight the longer the alligator will hang on. Alligators do not eat people but will, sometimes, bite people. Humans sweat salt, an alligator cannot digest salt and they dont like the taste of salt. If you dont fight the alligator, he will most likely do a bite and release.
** Please note, I am talking about "Wild" alligators, there are exceptions to every rule.
This is GATORMAN having a bad day, owwwww.
My parents also knew that they would have to turn me loose with the other kids in the everglades. There werent a lot of kids and I was one of the youngest in our small group.
The other kids were already swimming with alligators. I was nothing special when it came to swimming with the alligators. Some of the kids just swam close to the alligators we encountered. Then there were kids, like me, that could see something intriguing about alligators. Some of us just had to get closer and be more of a part of the alligators world.
When I got close to alligators in the water I could see them looking at me. I would watch their eyes. I could see the alligator was looking at certain kids in the water and ignoring others. It wasnt like they were sizing us up but more like, remembering us.
Some of the kids would swim up to an alligator and do what we called "chinning the alligator." Chinning was swimming up to the alligator and lifting the alligators chin up out of the water with your fingers. This maneuver freezes the alligator. I think because the alligator has no idea whats going on, he just stays still waiting to figure out whats happening. After watching the alligators look at each of us, I started watching who the alligators were looking at the most. Thats when I realized how smart alligators were. The alligators were looking at the kids that would touch them more than the kids that were just swimming close to them. I hear lots of people say that an alligator is not smart at all. They say that an alligator has a small brain, only as big as a walnut, and only knows how to eat, sleep and make babies. Well, correct me if Im wrong, but arent those the favorite activities of all animals on earth, including human animals. Its easy to make a statement like that because its true, but its true of all living things. I just cant believe that an animal can exist on the earth for over 200 million years and be dumb.
GATORMAN in the wrestling pit.
I am an alligator wrestler and I watch all of my friends that wrestle. They have watched me. We all learn from each other. My best friend, Jose Novo, wrestles at Everglades Safari Park and puts on an outstanding show. When I wrestle I like to grab the alligator bare handed and then straddle the alligator and tell people all about the alligator, thats my style. Jose just talks to his alligators. Jose will step into the arena, look around and say in a deep voice "BUBBA COME" (Bubba is a 9 foot alligator) and Bubba will start in the direction of Jose. As Bubba climbs out of the water Jose will say, "BUBBA STOP" and Bubba will stop and just look at Jose. Jose will again say, "BUBBA COME" and Bubba will come right up to Joses feet and Jose will again say, " BUBBA STOP." Thats a "dumb" alligator for you. Jose trains Bubba with treats consisting of chicken, beef or pork pieces. Any animal that learns and can be trained is not dumb.
Alligators in the wild are very fast to learn from humans. If you are not a threat to an alligator an alligator will not lose his fear of you, but will instead, settle down and become curious. That curiosity (mine and the alligators) is how I can get close to alligators and swim with them. After a few times of meeting the same alligator it is possible for me to swim right next to them.
Without expert knowledge, it is very dangerous to swim anywhere near an alligator. Although, people all over the state of Florida swim close to alligators and never know it,
YOU SHOULD NEVER INTENTIONALLY TRY TO TOUCH OR SWIM WITH AN ALLIGATOR.
Kissing an alligator during a show.
Once, I was dared to kiss a wild alligator. The alligator was just on the other side of the canal we were swimming in. So, I thought, I would just swim over and chin the alligator and blow her a kiss and swim away. Well, things didnt work out quite the way I thought they would. I swam over and chinned the alligator and the alligator let go of the stump she was hanging onto. We were both pulled into the current and the alligator was being pushed right at me. The alligators mouth was only 6 inches from my face. I just pulled the alligator to my face kissed her and we parted. I got away with it once because I think the alligator just couldnt figure out what was happening. Because Id gotten away with it that one time, I did it many times again. I even added the kiss to my alligator wrestling shows. I think kissing wild alligators is much safer to me than kissing captive gators because the captive gators know me so well and they know what Im going to do. I am very familiar with the subtle nuances of alligator body language and with alligators, even though they dont actually say it, you need to remember that "No means no."
To sum it all up;
When Im in the everglades I lose all track of time and the reality of the rest of the world. I just become a part of the everglades ecosystem like a frog or a clump of saw-grass. Its very Zen. When I swim up to a wild alligator, reality "HITS" me hard and all of my focus is on that alligator and I become aware that I am a very small part of a very big world. Some people say I need therapy because I swim with wild alligators. To me that is therapy. Just stepping into the everglades gives me a sense of peace and tranquility. Getting close to and interacting with the animals keeps my world in one piece.
There are lots of people in the world that find peace in interacting with wild animals.
I think that people who cant understand why people like me need to get as close as we can to animals need to interact more with people like me. If you dont ask people like me how we feel about nature then you lose out on so much feeling and understanding of our ecosystem. A lifetime of knowledge is worth as much or more than any college degree because I live in the everglades and I know my backyard better than any scientist and my opinion is valid too. Pop science may be proven valid but only with years of direct observation like I have done. We all must listen to each others points of view and consider each others points of view before we make any decisions that affect us all.
Anyone who follows my stories each month knows how much I love alligators.
So I must once again repeat myself.
DO NOT EVER THINK IT IS OK TO "TOUCH" AN ALLIGATOR OR "SWIM" WITH AN ALLIGATOR.
My story this month was inspired by a gentleman I met out in the everglades recently. I was swimming with some of my friends (Im sure you can figure out who my friends are) out in the middle of the everglades. Mr. Mark Howell was driving by and asked me some questions. Mark is Senior writer of "Solares Hill", a weekly publication of the Key West Citizen newspaper in Key West. Mark printed some very nice words about me.
Thank you Mr. Mark Howell
*If you are a teacher and you need to use this story in a class, e-mail me and I will give you permission to use it. If you are a student and need this story for an assignment or, to help you to get a better grade, e-mail me and I will give you permission to use it.
GATORMAN (Glenn W. Wilsey Sr.)
*This story or any part of it can not be used or reproduced with out written permission of the author!