The love of her life is an elderly alligator named “Swamp Thing.”
Her name is Gabby Scampone, she’s 22 years old, and she’s voluntarily taken on a career that would make more than a few men twice her age break out in a cold sweat.
The UK Daily Mail highlights the story of Scampone, a New York native who now lives in Fort Lauderdale, Florida and has dedicated her life to the care and transportation of alligators.
Yes, the big reptiles with the humungous jaws filled with teeth.
Primarily, she relocates alligators from areas such as back gardens and lakes, where they’ve been deemed to be “nuisance alligators,” meaning threats to people or livestock around them. When the gators would rather stay put, she wrestles them into compliance. She says of her job:
So sometimes they are in swimming pools or on a golf course, a lot of the time people just don’t want them in their backyard, in their canal or pond. Because they are afraid of them, so we go and we save them.
Most of the trappers won’t save the alligators, they will catch it and kill it because that is the way they get paid. Paul and I, we don’t kill the alligator, so we will go and we will catch them.
It is sad removing them from the only place they know as home. But if we don’t do it, other trappers are going to.
Scampone also works as a volunteer for Everglades Holiday Park. Every day there, she puts on a show that consists of wrestling the alligators and educating viewers about the beasts. She takes the opportunity to clear up common misconceptions about the scary-looking creatures.
A lot of people, 95 per cent, think that the alligators are going to chase them and eat them and kill you.
They are not going to kill you and attack you for no reason. They don’t want anything to do with you, they are not going to chase you. They are not going to jump out of the water and try to eat you.
They want to be left alone. People get bit if they are feeding the alligator, harassing the animal, but they are pretty chill, even in the wild. They don’t want anything to do with you.
So what about Swamp Thing, who we mentioned at the beginning? One of the elderly fella’s back legs is permanently broken and he has a cataract in one of his eyes. Still, Scampone is quite fond of him:
He is more of a pet; we don’t really use him for shows. But he is just really sweet, he has his own routine.
Every single morning when we clean the pit, he will go and let the water just push in his face. You know, just lay there and he will let me cuddle with him. He is a sweetheart and I love him.
Personally, I have a hard time imagining “sweetheart” would be the first word that came to mind, but to each their own.
Scampone admits that her job’s unusual hours and short-notice responsibilities take a toll on her social life, but the job remains a “dream” she’s wholly committed to and intends to stick with for the long term.