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Gator show host: Mystery call prevents wrestling act

Jeff Quattrocchi of the Swampmaster Gator Show holds a 3-year-old alligator he raised from an egg for children to pet following a demonstration Tuesday at the Red River Valley Fair in West Fargo. Michael Vosburg / Forum Photo Editor

WEST FARGO - A mysterious phone call has left an alligator show at the Red River Valley Fair in a position as murky as the waters of gator-infested Lake Okeechobee.

Jeff Quattrocchi, host of the traveling Swampmaster Gator Show, told a large crowd at his first performance on Tuesday that he wouldn't be doing the full act of "wrestling" his 8-foot, 200-pound alligator because of North Dakota Game and Fish Department restrictions. Quattrocchi later specified that he received a phone call prior to the 2 p.m. start time from someone identifying himself as a lieutenant with the department.

The man told him that he couldn't wrestle or handle the gator, as is normal for his shows, he said. However, Bob Timian, chief warden with the department in Bismarck, said that there is no such thing as a Game and Fish lieutenant. Neither Timian nor anyone else he spoke with at Game and Fish knew anything about the phone call or told Quattrocchi that he couldn't run his show as normal, Timian said.

He added that if indeed the man who made the call was only pretending to be with the department, then he committed a crime.

"That's impersonating an officer," he said.

Presented with that information, Quattrocchi said he too was confused, but added that when someone identifies himself as being with an agency that could regulate his show, "I yessir them."

Even so, he's fine not actually handling the gator for the time being because he said the animal was strained by the hot long drive from Florida.

"Right now, I'll continue to do it as I do it until I hear differently," Quattrocchi said. "I'm not bothered by it."

Jodi Buresh, assistant general manager of the fair, didn't think the changes took anything away from the show, which she said is still entertaining and educational.

"I'm more impressed with that because I didn't expect it to be educational that way," she said of the show, which is debuting at the fair this year. "The humanity of how he treats his animals is above and beyond what I expected."

The question remains, though - who called Quattrocchi?

"Was it an animal activist person, or someone with PETA?" he asked. "Maybe. My phone number is out there."

The Swampmaster Gator Show runs daily at 2, 4 and 7 p.m. through Sunday.