The Alligator Whisperer: Gabby Scampone on Wrestling and Rescuing Wild Alligators

Gabby Scampone is a Veterinary Technician, Wildlife Educator and Alligator Trapping Agent. She joins Chris Van Vliet from her home in Sunrise, FL to talk about the incredible work that she does with alligators. She discusses how she rescues what are called “nuisance alligators” in Florida and safely relocates them while other companies would kill them. She also talks about how much alligators are misunderstood and what we can learn from them!

On what Gabby is currently doing:

“So I am still rescuing them. I’ve been a state registered alligator trapping agent for four years, since I moved to Florida basically. I’m still rescuing them from people’s back yards. This month alone we got 3 babies out of swimming pools.”

On how they get the call to a job:

“So the way I explain it is the same way that a police officer has their own jurisdiction and their own area. I do Northern Broward County in Florida with two other people, it’s a very small team. But you can’t call us directly, you have to call The Alligator Nuisance Hotline. Isn’t that funny that we have an Alligator Nuisance Hotline here in Florida? So you call them, and they will issue out the permit to whoever is in that area. If it’s in Broward County, we will get the permit and we respond.”

Credit: Instagram

On what most trappers do:

“Most trappers choose to kill the alligator. In Florida, you don’t get paid to be an alligator trapper due to liability. If you go out and get your arm ripped off, you get a get well soon card, you don’t get paid. That’s how most trappers get paid, so they will catch the alligators a bit differently if they are just going to kill them. The trappers will put out a baited hook, the alligator will swallow it and the hook get stuck in their stomach. Then the trappers will shoot it.”

On how her method is different:

“The way we do it, we have to be physically there when the alligator is there. We use a really big fishing pool with a treble hook, we cast over their back and we snag hook them. It definitely takes a lot of skill. Usually you are fighting with the alligators in the water for like 20 minutes. They are just so strong. They are death-rolling and trying to get away. Once you pull them up, most of the time they are pretty exhausted. When we get them on land, we noose them and we pull them up. You can then put a towel on their head so they cant see. Then you get on their back and carefully tape the jaw shut. Then it goes in my Honda Civic and we drive it to the sanctuary.”

On if catching alligators makes money:

“I do not get paid. I pay for all my gas, all my tolls, the wear and tear on the car, everything.”

On being a lifelong animal lover:

“I have loved animals my whole life. Even as a child I would go out catching turtles and frogs in New York. As I got bigger the animals got bigger. I would go out and start catching really big snapping turtles and go looking for rattlesnakes and stuff. I started volunteering at a nature center when I was 15. Ever since then I have always been volunteering somewhere with animals. I got to the point where I was driving an hour north 2 times a week and an hour south 2 times a week just to volunteer with animals, because it is so limited in New York. I started following people on Instagram who were messing with alligators in Florida, and I thought, I could do that. So I came down and visited, and there is so much wildlife in Florida. I moved here in 2017 and started volunteering at The Everglades Outpost. That was where I met Paul, who taught me everything I know about trapping.”

Chris swimming with Casper the alligator at The Everglades Outpost

On people’s perception that alligators are dangerous:

“It’s the same as with pit bulls. You only see the bad things on the news. There are 2 million alligators in the state of Florida. If they wanted to kill people, there would be hundreds of people dying every day, but people don’t think like that. Everyone still refers to the little kid that got killed at Disney World a few years ago. That’s all I hear about. It does happen, especially when you put a small child in knee deep water at dusk where they will be alligators. But they are not chasing you down the street or breaking into homes. They don’t want anything to do with people.”

On what is a “Nuisance Alligator”:

“Any alligator that is deemed a threat to a person, a pet or livestock. If an alligator is out back in a canal and minding its own business, but you don’t want it there, it is a nuisance. If so, I will put it in my Civic and most go to The Everglades Outpost.”

On what is the ultimate goal:

“To have my own sanctuary, I want to rescue animals full time. I feel like I am almost there though. My full time job is a veterinary technician, I don’t get paid for any of the rescues that I do. We recently started a YouTube channel a couple of years ago so that we can share what we do and get attention. We are hoping that one day our YouTube channel can support our rescue and fund our lives rescuing these animals.”

On any animals she is not a fan of:

“I don’t like spiders and I don’t like crabs. I don’t know what it is about crabs, I like them from a distance.”

On her favourite animals:

“My favourite animal to work with is an alligator. I know that sounds clich√© but I just love alligators. I love them and I love the work that I do. I’ve always wanted to work with otters. Recently I got a chance to meet some otters, but I don’t know if I want to work with them anymore [laughs]. They are really stinky, like really bad! They are rally cute and I’m glad that I got to meet them but I don’t know if I want to work with them anymore. I really want to meet a binturong. They are kind of like a bearcat and smell like hot butter popcorn.”

On some lesser known alligator facts:

“Depending on their size, they can hold their breath for potentially up to 8 hours. They breathe by lowering their heart rate. Also, they can shut off some of their organs to save oxygen. They also don’t need to eat very often. A large alligator can go 8 to 9 months without eating. It could eat something like a deer beforehand. It would suck, it’s not fun for them but they can do it.”

On what Gabby Scampone is grateful for:

“My parents, my boyfriend and all of my personal animals.”

Gabby can be found on Instagram here.

Featured image: Elite Readers

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