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Wrestling and rescuing alligators just one more challenge this Vernon woman couldn't resist

Shanda Hill with one of seven alligators she helped trap in Florida.
Image Credit: Contributed
January 23, 2017 - 6:30 PM

VERNON - Shanda Hill never turns down a chance to try something new — even when it means potentially finding herself in the jaws of a wild animal.

After finishing her first Quintuple Anvil — a gruelling swimming, biking and running race the equivalent of five Ironmans — in Virginia last fall, the Vernon resident met fellow athlete Paul Bedard.

“When I met him, I was saying ‘where are you from, what do you do,’ and he said he wrestles alligators. I said ‘you what?’”

Already, Hill, a mom in her mid-30s, was hooked.

“I don’t think twice about really, truly living. I’m pretty spontaneous. If an opportunity comes up, I won’t say no. You only live once,” Hill says.

Bedard invited her to come and see what it was all about, and no surprise, Hill was game.

In Florida, nuisance alligators — those considered a threat to people or pets — are reported by members of the public and then captured by trappers. Most trappers sell the gators for meat or for their skins, but Bedard, and now Hill, take them to rescues instead.

“They’re incredible and so prehistoric,” Hill says. “They’re painted as such a vicious creature, and sure they can do damage…. But I don’t think they go out of their way to get us.”

Trapping a gator is no easy feat. First, you have to find it.

“We’ve got binoculars and usually you just see these two little eyes in the stream. It’s the coolest thing ever,” Hill says.

Bedard then uses a call box to attract the gator.

“Sometimes, it will come at you, because it’s curious about this call box,” Hill says.

That’s when they’ll try to sneak up behind it and hook it.

But it doesn’t always go that way. Because alligators can stay underwater for half an hour or longer, Bedard will sometimes swim out to where one was last seen and attempt to get a rope around it from the water.

“I want to go in the water, but he won’t let me,” Hill says with a laugh.

But, she still gets to play an active role in the process. Once the animal is hooked, Hill comes up from behind — in the gator’s blindspot — and jumps on its back to subdue it.

“Most of them I can jump on them and use my body weight and hold them right behind their head,” she says.

Meanwhile, Bedard tapes the gator’s jaw shut for ease of transport.

Aside from a few bruises on her legs from gripping the alligators’ backs, and a couple welts from being slapped by their tails, Hill says she hasn’t been hurt. She has been peed on, however.

“When you pick them up they usually empty their bladders,” she says.

Currently training for an upcoming race in Switzerland (a Deca Ironman, which is the equivalent of ten Ironmans) Hill says gator wrestling is a pretty good workout.

“I realized where my weaknesses were as far as needing to be stronger in some areas. I definitely went back to the gym and did some more lifting,” she says.

She’s already helped Bedard trap seven alligators, and plans to keep doing it. Eventually, she’d like to help him start up a rescue that’s closer to where they trap the alligators. Right now, they have to drive several hours to get to an alligator rescue.

For Hill, a vegetarian who has never even gone fishing, alligator wrestling has been quite the first.

“The best thing is when people come out and they’re afraid of it, but thankful its not getting killed,” Hill says.

Shanda Hill
Shanda Hill
Image Credit: Contributed

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News from © InfoTel News Ltd, 2017
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