In 2007, when a man snorkeling in Lake Moultrie lost his arm to an alligator, Ron Russell captured and gutted the gator to retrieve the limb in hopes of reattachment.
In 2010, when a long-time resident of the Naval Weapons Station pond needed to be relocated, it was Russell who was called to corral Charlie, a 12-footer who had long lost his fear of people.
With more than 25 years as a reserve officer in the Department of Natural Resources, it’s his expertise in his side-business called Gator Getters that keeps people calling.
Russell formed Gator Getters 15 years ago. His younger son, Cody, blurted it out as a name suggestion. Russell, now 54, uses both boys as helpers. RJ, 22, and Cody, 19, both have seen their dad tackle jobs that nobody else wants.
Mom, Sherry, once had terrible nightmares that her children would be eaten but is more comfortable now when they get a call about a nuisance gator. Not because the danger’s gone, she’s just more confident in their knowledge and abilities. Ron says RJ has become especially capable and often can respond to a need on his own.
Who ya gonna call?
It’s a part-time business with full-time responsibilities. Every gator situation is different and just because one gator is removed, it doesn’t mean another won’t appear.
Adrenaline still kicks in, but Ron says as he gets older, he wants start taking it easy. Russell has survived a few bites and admits to being cut by the gator’s tail more than a couple of times. In his opinion, he’s already spent enough time in the emergency room but intends to keep doing this as long as he can.
Grabbing a gator has been glamorized by popular TV shows such as “Swamp People” and “Gator Boys.” Some TV types approached Russell several years ago. They backed away when he didn’t seem crazy enough for prime time.
What Ron Russell prefers to do most is manage gators, not destroy them. He’s in charge of doing that at the Goose Creek Reservoir and Crowfield Plantation. He is especially reluctant to kill one of these creatures because “... it takes so long for an alligator to become an adult.”
He prefers to monitor the size and ages when surveying an area where multiple gators thrive. Many times, the gators manage themselves. “Big eats little,” is Russell’s best explanation of a gator’s survival instincts.
An alligator is very smart and extremely keen in its environment. Russell even thinks one gator he was trying to catch recognized his truck. While trying to remove a nuisance gator on Daniel Island, the gator would swim away every time Ron pulled up to the pond in his white pickup. Russell used some ingenuity of his own. He parked down the street and walked to the extraction point and captured the gator, who apparently was preoccupied looking for white pickup trucks.
Bagged and tagged
Is the alligator aggressive? Not usually, unless protecting a nest. Russell believes there are certain distinctions we all should know.
The alligator is not mean, but can be vicious. It’s not aggressive, but can be defensive and territorial.
Sometimes, the Russell household may get as many as a dozen calls for assistance. Other weeks, only 1 or 2.
No matter how quick or knowledgeable you think you are or how many episodes of “Swamp People” you’ve watched, we should all keep our distance and call somebody who knows what he’s doing.
Reach Warren Peper at 937-5577 or firstname.lastname@example.org.