By Shannon Lane @Shannonroselane

WHILST MOST 22-year-olds are socialising with friends, Gabby Scampone is wrestling alligators.

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Videographer / director: Rodrigo Gomez
Producer: Shannon Lane, Ruby Coote
Editor: Sonia Estal

Gabby moved from New York to Florida seven months ago, to pursue her career relocating and caring for alligators.

She told Barcroft Animals: "I actually just moved here on April 1st from New York.

"Reptiles have always been my thing, since I was like 15 I loved reptiles. Obviously we don’t have reptiles in New York, so when I moved here I just fell in love with them.

“When I moved here and told my parents that I was wrestling alligators they weren’t too excited. They were obviously afraid for me because it can be dangerous. But they support me in everything I do."

With her boss Paul Bedard she volunteers at Everglades Holiday Park, where she puts on a daily show wrestling alligators whilst also educating the audience.

She said: “A lot of people, 95%, 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."

When Gabby isn't at the park she is relocating nuisance alligators from back gardens and local lakes.

She said: “When we go and trap alligators, they are nuisance alligators. A nuisance alligator is any alligator that has ben deemed as a threat to people or a threat to a livestock. 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.”

Unfortunately the unplanned nature of the relocation calls means Gabby sometimes has her social life interrupted

She told Barcroft: “Yeah I basically don’t have a social life any more, sometimes it is slower with the trapping. When it is busy, it is busy and if you get like an emergency alligator, you have to go, because that is usually an immediate threat on land.

"So I was actually on a date last week. Half way through the date, Paul calls me about an alligator. So obviously I have to go get it, but it was a blessing in disguise because the guy didn’t want to come with me.

"So there will not be a second date."

Gabby’s favourite alligator at the park is Swamp Thing, an elderly alligator with a passive nature

She said: “My favorite is Swamp Thing and I think it is because he is a little bit handicapped. He has a permanently broken back leg. He has a cataract in one eye. 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."

Whilst the 22-year-old has a great relationship with her alligators, she is realistic in that she understands how they feel towards her, and the risks that come with working with them.

She told Barcroft: “Whenever you are working with an animal there are risks, especially with a large predator like this that has so many teeth. There are definitely risks, you can get bit. You can loose your hand, you can loose fingers. He can rip your arm off, they are no joke."

Gabby posts photographs and videos of her daily life with the alligators on her Instagram account, and has acquired a large following and many fans of her work.

She said: “When people see the pictures on the social media a lot of people assume I am crazy. Tell me that I am insane, it’s because they don’t understand.

"Obviously if you see a person kiss a alligator, maybe it looks a little bit crazy, but they don’t understand the alligators I work with are typically sweet and I am able to get away with that.”

Gabby continues to pursue her dream career with alligators, hoping to not lose any fingers in the process.

She said: “For the future I definitely plan on working with the animals, my entire life I am going to be surrounded by animals. I see myself trapping in the future, rescuing alligators and planning on keeping all ten of my fingers.

“My life motto, as clichéd as it sounds, is just follow your dreams. Pursue your passion, don’t let anybody discourage you.

"Don’t let anybody stop you and do what you want to do and be happy in life.”