Alligator

How to - Wrestle An Alligator 

Illustration: Mark Thomas

Gus Batista has been wrestling alligators for nearly 2 decades. To The Red Bulletin he reveals his techniques how to handle one of the most dangerous reptiles

Gus Batista has been wrestling alligators for more than 17 years. “It’s been thousands of encounters,” says the 44-year-old, who is also known by the nickname ‘Onebear’, given to him after he was mauled and almost killed by a black bear. He works for the Seminole Tribe of Florida as a wildlife officer on the tribe’s lands, dealing with bears, gators and snakes, and also as an alligator wrestler in shows, in which, he says, “the alligator is the star. We performers are just there to make people understand the animals, to give a voice to them.” If those gators could speak, they’d probably say, “Do we have to wrestle Gus again? That guy is too good.” Here he reveals his secrets. 

1 RESPECT AND FEAR

I wrestle nuisance alligators taken out of the wild and put in a controlled environment because of laws and the threat they pose. They’ve paid the ultimate sacrifice, of being enclosed, and I never forget that.

2 CLEAR YOUR MIND

It’s necessary to declutter. Some people use breathing techniques; I just sit there and observe the animals, like watching fish in a fish tank. It kind of relaxes me.

3 THINK ONE STEP AHEAD

You have to second-guess the animal and know its response before it responds. They are a lot faster than you are, and if you lack that intuition, you’re going to get caught.

Gus “Onebear” Batista

If the alligators could speak, they would probably say, “Do we have to wrestle Gus again? That guy is too good.”

You have to second-guess the animal and know its response before it responds
Gus Batista

4 DON’T GET BITTEN

The reality of this occupation is not if you get bitten, but when. I’ve been bitten 12 times - I only have half my right thumb. If you are bitten, stay one with the animal. If he shakes, stay in contact with him. That way, the bite won’t intensify.

5 GET A GRIP

If it’s a smaller gator, I’ll use my right hand. But with the really big ones, I can’t get a full grip because my half-thumb won’t go around the snout, so I have to lead with my left arm instead. Then, once I’ve got a good grip, I follow through with the right.

 

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