Fred Langdale received a surprise visit Monday from National Geographic "Swamp Men" stars Gus 'Onebear' Batista and Jonathan 'Cattail' Vazquez at his Moore Haven home. Langdale learned how to survive the alligator attack by watching their show.
Fort Myers, Florida (News-Press) -- Could Moore Haven teenager Fred Langdale have done anything last week when a 10-foot gator attacked him and tore off part of his right arm as he swam in the Caloosahatchee River?
"Could he have done anything different?" asked "Swamp Men" co-star Jonathan "Cattail" Vazquez. "He did great. He lived. He won."
Vazquez and his co-star, Gus "Onebear" Batista, visited with Langdale on Monday at his home, a surprise arranged by WINK News. The pair's activities as trappers is portrayed on the National Geographic channel show.
They left with an appreciation for what the 17-year-old has gone through and marveled at how strong his spirit is.
"It was the techniques he saw us doing on season three," Vazquez said. "He retained the information and it came back to him what he needed to do to control the animal and disrupt the attack."
Vazquez said that Langdale did exactly what he should have done when the 11-foot gator attacked him July 9.
"The initial attack he actually won, using the techniques he saw on the show," he said. The problem came when the teen turned to swim away and the gator reached out and grabbed his right forearm.
Vazquez said that, theoretically, someone in that situation might have been able to grab a part of the gator's throat that shuts off swallowing and allow water to choke the animal.
"But he was in the gator's mouth, you don't think like that in that situation," Vazquez said. However, he said of Langdale, "he was in survival mode. He's one of those great souls who survive."
Since 2000, there have been 120 recorded gator attacks in Florida resulting in 12 deaths.
Vazquez and Batista consider Langdale a kindred spirit and were amazed by Langdale's demeanor and humor. They brought Langdale a gator-tooth necklace and other paraphernalia from the show.
"Anybody can buy a gator-tooth necklace. Fred earned his," Vazquez said.
"I think it hasn't hit him yet and when it does he will see it for what it was and it will affect him," Vazquez said. "I hope it doesn't."
Batista added: "He will be learning as he goes along."
On the show
On their "Swamp Men" show the pair corral, remove and relocate nuisance animals of all kinds: gators, crocs, wolves, panthers, foxes, and more.
"We don't kill, period," Batista said. "If an alligator becomes a nuisance we try to capture it with little stress and transport to relocate the animal."
What differs the pair from regular nuisance trappers is that they are sanctioned by the Seminole Indian tribe through the Billie Swamp Safari.
"We work for a nation that believes in respect for wildlife," Vazquez said.
The show, which just finished its third season, the first for Vazquez and Batista as the new talent, airs on NatGeo in rebroadcasts as well as in many countries around the world as a new show.
Vazquez and Batista said they wanted to meet Langdale because they knew what he is going through. Both display scars from animal encounters; most of Batista's right thumb is missing courtesy of a gator, and he also wears the markings from a black bear attack.
"What we do carries a lot of risk and a lot of danger," Batista said. "It is just a matter of time before something happens when you work with dangerous animals."
Vazquez initially asked Langdale about the attack and what his future holds and how he will adapt.
"He is so wise and accepting for his age," he said. "He's an old soul."
Langdale said he has no qualms about swimming in the river, despite the attack. "I'm probably going to just dive right in."
Langdale also said he was surprised by the "Swamp Men" visit.
"It was pretty cool," the teen said. "I watch whenever the show is on. I never thought I'd get to meet them."
As they left, Vazquez called out: "Brother, anything you need - any time - just call."