From the looks of it, Paul Bedard had the time of his life. And he owes it all to an alligator he calls Cool Hand Luke.
Photos of Bedard, a South Florida trapper and star of the Animal Planet show Gator Boys, have been making the rounds on social media this week after he lifted a nearly 9-foot gator above his head and out of a Parkland pool like Johnny and Baby practicing for the end-of-summer talent show.
“These are actually fun because the gator can’t go anywhere, and the water’s almost always crystal clear,” Bedard said. “So all I have to do is jump in the water and play around with him until he’s tired.”
Usually, Bedard said, he’ll tap a gator on the leg or grab it by the tail so it makes quick, explosive movements that wind up draining the reptile’s energy. Then he’s able to wrangle it by hand, which he said is more fun than using a net or tools.
Bedard spent years having some wild traps filmed for TV. The show doesn’t film anymore, but he still traps and still performs educational shows at the Everglades Holiday Park. He’s different from most trappers, though. Many kill the gators and make money by selling the meat or hide.
For Bedard, it’s all volunteer work. His goal is to keep good standing as a trapper so he can be the go-to guy the state calls when the nuisance alligator hotline is used in his north Broward County coverage area. That way he can try to rescue, rather than harvest gators.
That’s part of why he was so excited when he got to that Parkland pool Tuesday morning. The gator broke through a backyard screen and wound up in a family’s pool. The nuisance hotline was called, Bedard was notified and he showed up to find “the most mellow gator in a pool I’ve ever had,” he said.
The gator was so mellow he named him Cool Hand Luke.
Luke now lives with Bedard’s other gators at the Everglades Holiday Park where he’ll soon become part of the Gator Boys live show. According to the park’s site, the show is “filled with exciting stunts and interesting gator facts."
“He’s already pretty relaxed around me,” Bedard said. “He’ll probably be there in a few weeks.”