Indian Tribe Wants Gator Wrestlers

Thursday, September 7th 2000, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

HOLLYWOOD, Fla. (AP) — The Seminole Indian tribe of Florida has job openings for anyone willing to take the world by the tail.

The ad reads this way: WANTED. Alligator wrestlers. Must be brave and a risk taker. Males and females OK. No experience needed.

``Traditionally, Seminoles have done this,'' tribe spokesman Chuck Malkus said. ``The reason why we have the job openings is because tribe members now are going into banking, communications, e-commerce and law school, so we have a shortage of candidates.''

The pay is $12 an hour, plus health and life insurance, which is a good thing.

Every day at the Okalee Village and Museum, Seminoles jump into a 6-foot-deep swimming pool, stalk a 7-foot alligator hiding on the bottom, and grab the reptile by the tail to the delight of paying tourists.

The goal is to wrestle the alligator out of the pool, sit on its back and pry open its jaw, which holds 80 sharp teeth.

``Here, there's no falling asleep at the wheel. You have to be 100 percent alert,'' said Michael Osceola, a 26-year-old Seminole who has been wrestling gators for five years.

Lance Holmquist of Key Largo is one of six people who have applied since the ad ran last week in the Sun-Sentinel of Fort Lauderdale. So far, no women have applied.

Holmquist, a 39-year-old charter boat captain, said he has experience if wrestling with sharks counts.

``I'm kind of quick and agile. I can lift my own weight a lot of times. I thought it was a good opportunity,'' said Holmquist, who is 6 feet tall and 190 pounds.

Historically, Seminole Indians wrestled alligators in the Florida swamp for survival. The reptiles could be tied up and kept alive until they were needed for food, and their skins were traded for gunpowder, tobacco and other items.

In addition to having sharp teeth, gators can spin violently. Tangling with one can be dangerous, even for experts.

In February, Seminole Indian Chief James Billie lost a finger while wrestling an alligator in front of about 100 tourists in the Everglades. Billie, chairman of the 2,200-member tribe, started wrestling alligators at age 5, but it had been 10 years since he had taken on a gator.

Apparently, most of those who have applied got an itch for adventure from watching TV's ``Survivor.''

``They think they can be a real survivor every day,'' Malkus said.