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‘Gator Boy’ With Millions of TikTok Views Says Nothing Humbles Like an Apex Predator

“Gator boy” Christopher Gillette took TikTok by storm by getting friendly with real-live gators in Florida. Chris is a wildlife biologist, conservationist, photographer, and videographer specializing in predators like sharks, crocodiles, alligators, and snakes. He’s been featured on shows such as Trailblazers and Gator Boys and aims to break down stereotypes about fearsome predators, offering science-backed information in his videos about the animals he features.

With videos that have more than 50 million views, we had to get to know this gator whisperer. We caught up with Chris for a Q&A, and here’s what he had to say.

Outdoors.com: Tell me about your outlook on life.

Chris Gillette: Life is an adventure, and we need to experience it and grow every day. I try to seek new adventures, challenge myself to do things that I don’t necessarily “want” to do, and to have humility, discipline, and empathy along the way. And stay positive!

Outdoors.com: Why do you love gators, crocs, and animals in general?

Chris Gillette: I grew up poor in the middle of nowhere; animals were often the only friends I had, and I learned at a young age that animals are just like us—that the walls separating beast and man are mainly artificial constructs in our own minds. When you forge real bonds with animals that are sometimes kinder than those you have with humans, it really puts things in perspective. This created a lifelong passion for wildlife and a mission to help protect animals and try to teach the world to try to view animals the same way I do. 

@gatorchris1

Showing off Seven’s feet! Professional handler never attempt #gator #alligator #florida #animals #animal #reptile #dangerous @evergladesholidaypark

♬ original sound – Christopher Gillette

Outdoors.com: What are three things about you that would surprise us?

Chris Gillette: I have been vegetarian for over 10 years. I can hold my breath for five minutes. I’m pretty decent at nunchucks. 

Outdoors.com: What is your most memorable animal encounter and why?

Chris Gillette: Honestly, it is really too hard to choose! How do I pick between freediving 70-feet deep on one breath of air, swimming alongside a wild 15-foot tiger shark off the coast of Costa Rica, or hanging out 20 feet up in a tree with a wild black mamba in the bush in the Okavango Delta, or being underwater in the wild between a 13-foot alligator and 15-foot crocodile? There really are too many to choose just one.

Outdoors.com: What is your greatest fear?

Chris Gillette: People ask all the time if I have dreams of being killed by gators, and I actually literally never have. But I do often have bad dreams about being back in school and late for class and not knowing where the classroom is, or showing up and there’s an exam I didn’t know about. A lifetime of working with the world’s most dangerous cold-blooded predators and the thing that left the deepest mental scar was school.

Outdoors.com: What has contributed to you living your dream life?

Chris Gillette: Hard times build character. Growing up with very little was a blessing and taught me to work hard to get results. This is especially true when working with animals; they couldn’t care less how much is in your bank account or where you’re from, just what you can do—presidents and hobos taste just the same [to] a gator. Understanding hard realities at a young age wasn’t fun then but made me a much better man now. 

Outdoors.com: How did you get into your line of work?

Chris Gillette: Getting to where I am today took a lot of discipline and perseverance. A lot of young people ask how to get where I am, and I tell the honest truth that there is no clear path or easy answer. Making a living working with wildlife is a constant grind and hustle; it is very difficult to make money. I remember those days eating ramen noodles for lunch and a jar of peanut butter for dinner. If you’re in it for the money, be a lawyer. 

I have always been determined to work with animals; I spent years volunteering and working at facilities with no pay, just to gain experience and learn about animals. Again, there is no set out path in this work. It’s not like other jobs where there’s a clear set of classes and corporate ladder to climb. My life was riddled with constant unknowns and dead ends. Many times, I worked five different jobs within one week, between gator wrestling for tip money, running a shark dive, catching crocs at night for a university lab, running airboat tours, running my gator swim tours, working as a cameraman/consultant for wildlife film projects. I was all over the place trying to hustle and make things work out. 

Outdoors.com: Do you ever get scared handling “dangerous” animals?

Chris Gillette: No. “Fear is the mind-killer”—I read Dune when I was a kid, and that phrase really stuck in my head. It’s very true. I end up in very dangerous situations, and there is a realization that things are going wrong and you might be killed, but you cannot allow fear to creep into your mind and destroy logic and reasoning; those are the only things that’ll keep you alive. 

Outdoors.com: Tell me about being on Trailblazers.

Chris Gillette: I can’t, they make you sign NDAs. Speaking in very general terms, I have appeared on dozens of shows across many networks, including Animal Planet, NatGeo, Discovery, History Channel, Travel Channel, ABC, NBC, Fox, CNN, [and] even The Weather Channel. I have had some fun TV experiences and an overwhelming amount of negative experiences with most shows faking and staging everything. Almost every “reality” show is entirely scripted, and I mean like they literally hand you a printed script to read to the camera arguing about a situation that never even happened, then put it on TV as reality. That is why I love social media so much, where I can actually show my real life and present things with honesty and integrity—an extremely different way of working from my TV-show days. 

Outdoors.com: Who inspires you and why?

Chris Gillette: Steve Irwin was the most influential person to me. Not only was [I] a huge fan of his animal content but he was also the first person I saw as a kid who actually made his crazy passion for animals work for him and create a career.

Outdoors.com: What advice would you give someone trying to be up close with animals like you are?

Chris Gillette: If you’re trying to be up close with animals, make sure you’re doing it for the right reasons. I was doing the same things I do now before social media existed out of passion and love for animals, but I see a lot of people online now that use the animals for attention and views—like the animal is just a prop for them. My advice is to of course be careful, take things slow, but to always keep passion and love for animals at the forefront. Never let the desire for views make you forget you’re here for the animals; they’re not here for you and . . . always respect the animals. 

Outdoors.com: What is the most important lesson life has taught you?

Chris Gillette: Have humility and respect for mother nature, because nothing can humble you quite like an apex predator. 

@gatorchris1

How every feeding starts, total chaos 😂 full 7min video on FB/IG. @evergladesholidaypark #gator #animals #fyp #alligator

♬ original sound – Christopher Gillette
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