If you’re going to wrestle a wild gator, it’s probably best not to film it. An even worse idea is posting the video on Facebook.
That’s exactly what the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission said two Palm Beach County fisherman did in May. It’s a third degree felony to own, kill or capture an alligator without a permit, so when someone tipped off the FWC about the video, they arrested and charged the men.
The pair used grass on fishing line to lure a small alligator out of a pond near the Bee Line Highway, according to the FWC report. Brian Bunting, a 28-year-old Newberry man, filmed as 31-year-old David Swick waded into the pond after the four-foot gator.
“You guys ever seen anyone get bit by an alligator before?” Bunting asked.
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The video showed how Swick nabbed the reptile, held its mouth closed and wrangled its wildly flailing tail.
“Get a pic,” Bunting instructed. The FWC said the duo posed for selfies with the incapacitated gator.
“And that is how you catch a gator by hand,” Bunting said with a laugh. Afterward, they told authorities they released the reptile.
A quick review of the #gatorselfie hashtag on Instagram shows the phenomenon isn’t uncommon. While most pictures are location tagged to tourist hotspots in South Florida and Louisiana, some photographers are bold enough to admit they caught the gators themselves in the wild.
Taking selfies with wild animals — especially dangerous ones —is generally frowned upon by authorities. In Yellowstone National Park, tourists trying to frame the insta-perfect shot occasionally back up too close to the park’s feature creature, the bison.
The gigantic horned animals gore and sometimes kill tourists who dare stand too close. Parks across the nation beg tourists to rely on the zoom feature of their cameras, rather than risk a close up gone wrong.
On Saturday, an Indian man lining up the perfect group selfie got too close to a huge python, the Huffington Post reported. His reward? A swift bite to the shoulder.
Both men were charged and arrested for capturing the gator. Bunting was released on a $4,500 bond, and Swift’s was $1,000.