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Gator Hearts Go Aflutter In Spring

The beginning of alligator breeding season in Florida brings lots of the critters where humans would prefer they not go – to residential areas.

It was time to call in professional trappers, such as Todd Hardwick.

The state trapper described his latest two success stories for The Early Show co-anchor Julie Chen Thursday, as they

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On Wednesday, Hardwick spent an hour-and-a-half grabbing two 'gators in different parts of the Miami suburb of Kendall. A large crowd gathered to watch him in action. Hardwick's hard work paid off, and the alligators, both males, are staying at his Pesky Critters Wildlife Control Company facility in Miami, while they wait for their fate to be decided.

Hardwick tells Chen that Wednesday wasn't even all that busy, by breeding season standards. "The large alligator took a little more time than expected, or we may have very well had five or six alligators at the end of day.

"Certainly, things are now picking up. It's the spring alligator mating season and we've had a four-month holiday from alligators every few hours, but that changed yesterday, and it's going to continue to ramp up. We'll be handling upwards of 20 to 30 alligator complaints on any given day."

He says one of the Kendall 'gators was big enough to cause concern: "That's certainly the size alligator that we start to feel there is a legitimate threat to small children and family pets."

How does he go about his business?

"We take the battle to the 'gator," Hardwick says. "If the 'gator is on land, that's where we'll deal with him. If he's in the water, that's where we're gonna deal with him. And unfortunately, that is his element. He has an advantage. It's a lot of danger there -- not just being bitten, but being entangled in your ropes and being drowned."

But Hardwick says it's old hat to him by now; he's been at it for more than 25 years. Still, "I always have to remember that this could be the 'gator that ends it all. …Every day, I have bruises and contusions, but so far, I have 10 fingers and 10 toes, and that's my goal -- to retire that way."

One of the Kendal alligators began rolling over and over in the water.

"That's what we call a death roll," Kendall points out. "Alligators do that when they feel that they're trapped or pinned down. They also do it when they grab their prey. Should that alligator have been lucky enough to get a hold of my arm or leg, he would go into that death roll in an attempt to detach that part from my body and swim off. So that's a dangerous time when they're rolling. You just want to get out of their way."

He adds the Kendall alligators are probably going to end up in an alligator park and "live out the next 30 years in captivity."