‘Gator Boys’ Part II: Jimmy Riffle on the bite that lasted 8 minutes

Jimmy Riffle of ‘Gator Boys’ — Photo courtesy of Animal Planet

Animal Planet’s Gator Boys follows the alligator rescue efforts of Jimmy Riffle and his business partner Paul Bedard. Together, the gator team helps local residents with pesky reptilians and also dispels any misconceptions about our scaled friends (or enemies?). When most people head to the office for another 9-to-5 slog, Riffle and Bedard head into tricky situations with large-toothed animals that turn off most people.

Here, in Hollywood Soapbox’s second and final exclusive talk with the Gator Boys, Riffle talks about his toughest alligator case of all time and the education needed to allay the public’s fears.

Questions and answers have been slightly edited. Click here for Part I, a talk with Paul Bedard.

What should audience members expect from the upcoming season?

Us going out, rescuing alligators, and a lot of action, a lot of mud, and getting dirty and wet, and very dangerous situations.

How did this love and fascination of working with alligators begin?

Actually I started volunteering at a place called the Native Village. … I stayed there from 11 years old to about 24, 25 years old. And when I first started, I didn’t expect it to escalate. Animals have been a passion of my life since I can’t remember, especially alligators.

When did it click for you to turn this fascination into an actual business?

When I was at Native America, I met Paul through there. I met Paul at a very young age. Him and I always talked about doing something, and we hit it off pretty quickly, Paul and I. We’ve been trying to do what we’ve been doing for the last seven to eight years. But we were able to finally get it going just recently.

Paul Bedard and Jimmy Riffle — Photo courtesy of Animal Planet

From a viewer’s perspective, it looks like you don’t have much fear. What’s going through your mind?

Most of the time, which is good about working with Paul, we’ve been with each other for so long, we don’t have to tell each other what to go do. If I go after the tail, Paul goes toward the head. It’s good not having to tell your partner to do something when you’re in the middle of the action. That’s the best thing with Paul and I. We work with each other very, very well. When we get into situations like that, nothing crosses your mind. You don’t think about getting bit. You just think about doing a job and getting the alligator caught up as safely as possible for him and us.

Is saving alligators still what drives you to go out to each case?

It definitely keeps us going. Paul and I, we think we’re doing a really good thing rescuing the alligators. It keeps us going, not knowing what the next situation is going to hold. Like we said before, we’re not against other trappers, we just do what we do, and that’s going out, rescuing alligators and doing our thing.

Has it been a challenge to have the camera crew with you on these cases?

Before the film crew got to us, it was just Paul and I and a couple other guys. Before we didn’t have to worry about that. Now that the film crew is there, you kind of have to have everyone’s back, because right in the middle of danger, if the cameraman makes the wrong move, that alligator could jump toward him. We have to get in the middle of that. It definitely adds a whole new level of having to deal with the animals that we do.

How has the show changed your life? Do your family and friends like seeing you on television? How about yourself?

It’s definitely something different. I never thought that I would be doing that. I’ve always grown up watching the animal shows and thinking it would be cool. Our friends think it’s pretty neat. But the only good thing about it is that my friends they’ve known me for a long time, and if I start getting out of place, they put me back into it.

It’s something different to see. It’s cool. It’s really neat seeing yourself on TV. We still go out there and do what we started to do, and that’s going to rescue alligators. We never changed that. This doesn’t change anything like that. It just gives us basically the push to be able to keep doing what we want to do.

Jimmy Riffle and Paul Bedard on Animal Planet’s hit show, ‘Gator Boys’ — Photo courtesy of Animal Planet

When you get to a house or office building, are the people on site just scared and look at these alligators as enemies? Do you have to educate them a bit?

On most catches, they’re afraid. It’s basically being uneducated on alligators. It’s just like if your mom and dad were afraid of snakes, they would put that fear into you. It’s the same concept. We get somewhere, and they’re like, ‘Yeah, I’ve been raised being afraid of alligators.’ So it’s just being uneducated about them. Once we settle them down, they get up close and personal, they kind of have a whole outlook on alligators (after) we leave.

What was your toughest case? Perhaps one with a bad injury?

Before the show started, I’ve actually been bit seven times by alligators. And my worst bite, I was doing a show for about 80 people. It was sort of a baby shower. Figure that one, right? We were at the Native Village, and I got bit by a 9-foot alligator and he hung on for about 8 minutes. That was the worst 8 minutes — not worst, but the most painful 8 minutes of my life. We had to use a crowbar to actually pry him off. Injury is definitely something that can happen, but it’s just part of the job. But you do not wake up in the morning thinking you’re going to get bit or hurt. You just go out every day and do what we do.

By John Soltes / Publisher / John@HollywoodSoapbox.com

  • Gator Boys will return with new episodes on Sunday, June 17 at 9 p.m. Click here for more information.

John Soltes

John Soltes is an award-winning journalist. His writing has appeared in The New York Times, Earth Island Journal, The Hollywood Reporter, New Jersey Monthly and at Time.com, among other publications. E-mail him at john@hollywoodsoapbox.com

10 thoughts on “‘Gator Boys’ Part II: Jimmy Riffle on the bite that lasted 8 minutes

  • August 31, 2012 at 7:13 am

    Great show it is really great that you save gators as a Florida resident palm harbor I was not educated about gators yor show has helped I respect these reptiles now and view them differently keep up the great work and God bless . Tell Paul you and he are Crazy! I respect what you do I am too chicken !

  • December 28, 2012 at 10:27 pm


  • January 6, 2013 at 1:15 pm

    Jimmy, where can I get a hat like yours for my boyfriend. He would look so bad in it! Is it just a standard moose hat?

    • March 10, 2013 at 10:08 pm

      Jimmy needs a girl friend, so if you fill that need you won’t need to get your bf a gator hat. 😛

  • May 8, 2013 at 3:42 pm

    My sister and I would wait after school every day to watch you guys on TV! She loves you SO much I’m going with her to Mississippi. Just wondering… How’s the place in Florida going? You guys are awesome at what you do, even though my mom says you guys are 100% NUTS, and my dad wonders why you just don’t tranquilize the gator… I don’t believe that. Whenever I hear that come from dad I try to convince him that it’s just not what you guys want to do… You just have a passion. Good luck!

  • July 14, 2013 at 4:54 pm

    I love the gator boys, it’s my favorite show, i actually own reptiles myself. I will be coming to Everglades Holiday Park soon if there still in Florida (i hope they are!). I want to donate and buy a few things from there, like a neclace, a shirt and the gator mug! You guys are amazing at what you do and your an inspiration to me. When i grew up i watched a lot of Steve Irwin (the greatest crocodile wrestler ever!) and hes been my role model. I would love to meet you and would love to wrestle gators for a living.

  • July 29, 2013 at 10:17 pm

    hi im sarah im 12 years old and my favorite animal is gators i lov your tv show i watch it every time it come on and some day when im older ill prombably be a gator recuser to i love u guys and some day u will se me

  • August 27, 2013 at 12:48 am

    Just saw the episode wher Jimmy collapsed with a pain & loss of breath. I had a very similar occurance my son in law who is a paramedic recognized it as an aneurism. Even though I felt fine shortly I had it checked out & it was confirmed. Surgery corrected it. Jimmy go to a heart specialist soon. If it is an aneurism (I hope it’s not) your next attack may be fatal.

  • October 13, 2013 at 6:18 pm

    I live in Texas & am planning a trip to see the Gator Boys. I think I am more excited to see them than my family I’m going to visit!!!

  • August 4, 2014 at 5:06 am

    I just really like tje gator boys show would really like to m
    eet them I live in sunset tx


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