10-Year-Old Wrestles Alligators, and Other Dangerous Jobs for Kids

samantha youngA 10-year-old Colorado girl is following the family tradition of wrestling alligators at the family farm, and has even trained U.S. soldiers in the art of tackling the deadly predators.

It's not a job for the squeamish, but Samantha Young can handle getting on the back of an 5-foot, 60-pound alligator and keeping its mouth shut -- a skill she started learning at age 5, always with her dad nearby.

"I keep expecting her to get bit one day," her dad, Jay Young, told AOL Jobs in a telephone interview. " I figured she'd get complacent and get an injury." But it hasn't happened yet, he said.

"She doesn't have a single scar on her from an alligator," he said.

There are some 350 alligators at the Colorado Gators Reptile Park, and Samantha teaches visitors how to tackle them. The 50-pound girl has shown U.S. Marines and others how to wrestle alligators, which her dad says requires a simple method: "Don't hesitate and don't let go."

While her job is at a family park and it's unclear if she's paid for wrestling gators, at least it isn't among the five worst teen jobs of 2010, as reported by the National Consumers League:

  1. Traveling Youth Sales Crews
  2. Construction and Height Work
  3. Outside Helper: Landscaping, Groundskeeping and Lawn Service
  4. Agriculture: Harvesting Crops
  5. Driver/Operator: Forklifts, Tractors, and ATV's

As teens compete with experienced adults for jobs, the worry is that the difficulty will lead to teenagers taking jobs that are too hazardous for them. More youths ages 10 to 19 die from injuries than from all other causes combined, according to the NCL. Some job-related deaths may have been avoided, such as a 14-year-old working with a wood chipper, if they weren't working illegally. Child labor laws make it illegal for anyone under 18 to work on a wood chipper.

Some jobs that students take on aren't dangerous at first glance, but can be if they don't have the proper equipment. The 16-year-old daughter of Julie Bonn Heath, of Seaside, Ore., has a summer job working with horses as a guide for summer rides on the beach. She has been stepped on once, causing her mom to buy her $50 steel-toed boots. Her daughter earns $8.50 an hour, the minimum wage in Oregon, and is saving for a car and college.

The worst teen job -- being part of a traveling youth sales crew -- is something I did while in high school many years ago. And as a newspaper editor I've gotten phone calls from worried parents who haven't had their child returned home on time after being out with a manager trying to get people to subscribe to the newspaper.

I remember being dropped off in Oakland, Calif. -- one of the most violent cities in the country -- near dusk on a summer night with other high-school students my age, and given sets of knives to give to customers who bought our pitch to subscribe to the local paper. Nothing happened to us, and it didn't occur to me till years later that being dropped in Oakland and asking people if they wanted some knives that I had with me if they bought the paper, was a bad idea. We weren't warned about murder, robbery, assault and other crimes that are committed against such work crews.

Injuries are more likely than death in these dangerous teen jobs. According to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, the causes of workplace injuries typically fall into these categories:

  • Unsafe equipment
  • Stressful conditions
  • Inadequate safety training
  • Inadequate supervision
  • Dangerous work that is illegal or inappropriate for youth
  • Trying to hurry
  • Alcohol and drug use

Samantha, the alligator wrestler, is hopefully safe since her dad supervises her, although it sounds like a stressful job. Let's hope she isn't trying to hurry and gets injured; although you'd think that hurrying to get an alligator under control would be part of the job description.

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Aaron Crowe

Aaron Crowe

Editor

Aaron Crowe is a freelance journalist in the San Francisco Bay Area.

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BrianD

So..we have a journalist in California writing about a girl wrestling alligators in Colorado in order to put the difficulties of teen employment into context.. I have a feeling that maybe this isn't the most cohesive article that Aaron Crowe has ever written. Is it obvious to everyone that the research for this article consists of information taken from other writers and hastily pasted into this 'article.' The journalist doesn't even research if Samantha is paid for but rather states: "it's unclear if she's paid for wrestling gators" before concluding that "at least it isn't among the five worst teen jobs of 2010." Wow, that tells us a lot. Also, this piece of journalistic craftsmanship states that Samantha shows Marines and others how to wrestle alligators. However, this article failes to mention that Samantha's involvement with gator wrestling class is limited to brief demonstration that involves plucking 2 or 3 foot gators from a small water tank. Introducing a Marine to the method gator handlers use to pick up a 2 or 3 foot alligator isn't exactly risking one's life. Samantha's dad teaches the gator wrestling class and Samantha introduces the baby alligators. Funny, this article seems to only contain information that would appear controversial. I guess that was the extent of Aaron Crowe's research.

I especially like how the author tied Samantha's story into the rest of his article: "As teens compete with experienced adults for jobs, the worry is that the difficulty will lead to teenagers taking jobs that are too hazardous for them." Yeah..Samantha is a great analogy of teens having to choose dangerous jobs becaues of lack of employment.. Why not write an article about Evil Knieval in order to explain risk in the banking industry while your at it.

The most interesting thing about this article are the quotes regarding Samantha taken from other sources. A discussion about the risks associated with childhood sports and hobbies would be much more relevant. In fact, the comments on this message board have centered around the issue of acceptable risk involving children. This is an appropriate discussion because while not everyone will agree with a daughter or son handling an alligator, many parents would not think twice about allowing a child to ride a bike or horse. Many children die each year from bicycle accidents or similar incidents, but these activities are perfectly accceptable. Maybe we should examine our conflicting views on risk because they certainly exist.

Brian Deegan

May 25 2011 at 4:05 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
mannup

You mean young child, don't you!

June 23 2010 at 7:06 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
mannup

Maybe it's me, but it seems there is something vastly wrong with having this little child wresling with gator that heavier than she. My guess is that her dad won't be happy until his daughter becomes lunch for some lucky gator and it won't be a bite as the father foolishly thinks but a big snap of them powerful jaws around his little girl. I don't care how close or near this dad thinks he is to his daughter for her safty, the gator jaws is hair trigger fast. If this dad want to risk his life than so be it! But sheer stupity to put his daughter's life on the block. What this kid don't know, it that it is not a matter of "will it happen" but "when it does happen"


June 23 2010 at 7:00 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Marshall

I am sure that in due time those videos may be produced once
she has been fully trained in alligator handling.

June 23 2010 at 6:59 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Oldie

I give kkudus to this young girl and her parents. If more young people would be able to learn from parents and do things like this, It would be a much better world.

June 23 2010 at 6:57 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Tammy

Wow everyone here with all the negative comments need to get a life. She looks happy to me....keep up the good work girl. Wresle those crocs.....gotta give her her props!!!

June 23 2010 at 6:40 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
anita

ya know what her parents work with these creatures , therefore she is exposed to them on a daily basis i believe they would be VERY BAD PARENTS if they did not teach her how to handle herself what to do what not to do and how to read their body language and such around them

June 23 2010 at 6:22 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Mario Sierra III

This is rubbish...the gator has been refigerated so it is limp...would hardly be able to protect itself from preditors, and then a foolish family thinks this is brilliant. Hog wash...I am from Florida and spent many years In South Florida and the Everglades. Let's put a real gator in there and check with ma and pa then.

June 23 2010 at 5:44 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to Mario Sierra III's comment
BrianD

I am a Floridian who often travels to this farm in Colorado in order to handle the alligators and learn from the Young family. If you think the alligator has been refrigerated you are a moron. I have no idea why you would make this assertion, but I imagine that you are like the many others who would rather discredit this girl because of your own ignorance. I've seen ma, pa, and daughter wrestle REAL alligators and it is impressive. I have no problem if you disagree with someone else's lifestyle or choice of career, but to make baseless accusations reveals what a pathetic character you possess. I have much love for alligators and those who respect them, such as the Young family. This family rescues alligators and many other animals. Rescuing alligators is very difficult work, but they do it every day. If you want to accuse them of 'refrigerating an alligator' or other bull$hit I suggest you get a plane ticket to Denver. Drive to Mosca. Pick out any 4 to 5 foot alligator and see for yourself what this talented girl can do. Maybe then you can pull your head out of your a$$. Agree or disagree with Samantha and her family, but your comments make me sick.

May 25 2011 at 3:16 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
tony


why not a video seen on how she handles gators?

June 23 2010 at 5:32 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
pillgirl

i doubt shes 50 pounds they are probably exaggerating too make it sound more unbelievable

June 23 2010 at 4:07 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

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