Fear and Tagging in the Bayou

Alligator tagging; these two words contain a mix of emotions as they ring in my ear. Fear, excitement, anxiety, insane, crazy… I had never even seen an alligator until this summer, and now I have the opportunity to catch them in their own territory!? Crazy.

A couple nights ago, I actually partook in this adventure. My co-workers, Josh, Shelby, Corey (aka, “the boys”) and I made our way to Lacassine National Wildlife Refuge and drove out on the levees to an area picked out by the refuge’s biologist. As soon as the sun went down, it was alligator tagging time.

Josh and Shelby went first and caught ten gators. Just experiencing and seeing this in person was worth the trip. My coworkers were having a great time and were a little too hyped up on adrenaline. I knew that I would absolutely hate myself if I didn’t at least try and “the boys” told me I had to at least catch one.

My adrenaline rushed as soon as I stepped in the airboat. I was afraid, but I had to swallow my fear and literally just dive in. Ringing a gator around the neck and holding on for dear life sounded ridiculous, but it was the most thrilling experience I have ever had.

I ended up catching four on my own. Sure, they were little guys, but the fact that I caught an alligator in the wild was gratifying. It made me respect them even more. No matter how scary a creature may appear, all are beautiful in their own right, and must be respected. The alligator is just an incredible creature. Their leathery skin and powerful tails are just marvels. We caught one gator, probably fifty inches in length, and put three rubber bands around it’s mouth. The whole time he was in the bag he was hissing. Shelby pulled him out of the bag and the gator was able to open his mouth. Now that was scary.

Once on shore, we took the gators from inside the boat and laid them out for measuring. We measured their full size and the length from their genitals to their snout. We figured out the sex and then tagged them with little pieces of metal, and skinned off a piece of their tail to mark the year of capture. We caught thirty-nine gators and recaptured three that were tagged in years past.

There are too many words and expressions I could use to describe this experience. To really understand how exciting it was, you would just have to experience it for yourself! But, of course, don’t try it at home.