Two Florida men are facing felony charges after, authorities say, they captured a baby alligator by hand, took a video as the animal tried to squiggle away and posted it to Facebook.
Brian Bunting, 28, and David Swick, 31, were arrested in September, about five months after Bunting — a cast member of the CMT reality show, “Gainesville” — posted the video to his Facebook page. The two were charged with illegal killing, possessing or capturing of alligators.
In the nearly minute-long video, Swick is seen standing close to the alligator in shallow water as Bunting, who was recording, said: “You guys ever seen someone get bit by an alligator before? Look at this one right here.”
Swick then inched closer to the reptile.
“Grab his neck right now, grab his neck now. Grab it! Grab it!” Bunting yelled, as Swick caught the alligator, grabbing its neck with his left hand.
As the alligator tried to squiggle away, Swick pinned the reptile to the ground with his two hands.
“And that’s how you catch a gator by hand,” Bunting said, as Swick stood beside him, his left hand holding the alligator’s tail and his right keeping its jaw closed.
The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission said the two then posed for selfies with the alligator, according to an incident report. The state agency was alerted of the incident after officers received a tip on Facebook about Bunting and Swick.
Bunting told officers that he and Swick were fishing when they lured the alligator to the bank and caught it, according to the incident report. Bunting said they knew not to mess with alligators, but they decided to catch the reptile for fun, according to the report.
In an interview with The Washington Post, Bunting said the incident was blown out of proportion.
“I think it’s crazy that it’s gotten this kind of attention. Because when you grew up in South Florida, you grew up catching fish, catching alligators,” said Bunting, of Newberry, Fla. “You don’t grow up thinking it’s a big deal. To us, it’s just another day.”
Bunting also said that the alligator was not harmed and was released shortly after.
According to the incident report, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission cited Bunting and Swick for taking or possession of an alligator without a permit. Bunting said they were initially facing a misdemeanor, but last month, the two were arrested for a felony charge.
Under Florida law, illegally possessing or capturing alligators is a third-degree felony punishable by up to five years in prison and a $5,000 fine.
Online jail records show that Bunting and and Swick, of Wellington, Fla., posted bond shortly after their arrest.
Efforts to reach Swick were unsuccessful.