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Paging Captain Hook

Florida's Seminole tribe advertises for gator wrestlers

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You know Florida's economy must be in especially good shape when the Seminole tribe has to place a newspaper ad to locate a few alligator wrestlers.

That's exactly what happened this month when the Seminole Okalee Indian Village and Museum, a tourist attraction on the Seminole reservation northwest of Miami, was unable to find a single native American with the requisite interest and skill to fill an open position.

So they decided to go outside the tribe to find a gator grappler.

The classified ad read in part: "WANTED: alligator wrestler. Must be brave and a risk taker." Pay: $8 an hour.

"It is a tribal tradition that goes back 200 years. It has been passed down from generation to generation," says Chuck Malkus, a spokesman for the tribe. "But the reality is that today tribal members are pursuing careers in banking, e-commerce, communications, law, and we haven't had any tribal members apply or show an interest."

Some lament the development as the end of an era, when members of the Seminole and Miccosukee tribes were more than willing to demonstrate actual swamp-honed know-how and bare-chested bravery at any number of roadside attractions in Florida. Others see it as a sign of progress as members further integrate into Florida society, opting for more lucrative careers. If you don't have to, why risk limb (if not life) while manhandling seven-foot-long, 150-pound reptiles two to four times a day for the amusement of the sunburned throngs?

"We do have some people who still do this, but just a handful of them are left," says Alexandra Frank, manager of the Okalee attraction and a member of the Seminole Tribe.


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