South Carolina Boy Nabs Alligator That Bit Woman

Twelve-year-old Joey Maffo has been handling gators since age 3.

Aug. 16, 2013 — -- For South Carolina 12-year-old Joey Maffo, it's not unusual for a typical summer day to include wrestling an alligator twice his size, as he did this week.

Maffo's grandfather runs Hilton Head Island's Critter Management wildlife control company and received a call Wednesday that an alligator had attacked a woman near a lagoon.

Tamra Shattuck, 50, had been walking her and a friend's dog around a lagoon when the gator lunged out of the water toward her. The animal bit her ankle but she and the dogs were able to escape with minor injuries.

That's when she called Joe Maffo, 68, for help. Maffo, who called Shattuck a "very tough" girl, headed over to her house.

"When I arrived, I saw the gator for a split second," Maffo told "I evaluated it between seven and eight feet."

Maffo couldn't catch the gator Wednesday but went back to the house Thursday with Joey in tow. As the two were searching, Shattuck spotted the animal in the water and directed the guys to it.

"I went down and just let [Joey] fight it and hold it until it got to 16 feet out where I could reach it," Maffo said. "I stood at the edge of the water and reached out with a pole and put it around its neck and pulled it up to shore and then he pulled the rope tight. I got on the gator and he came over and taped it."

Joey is 5-feet tall and weighs about 90 pounds. The alligator was 8 feet and weighed 180 pounds.

Tape is put on the alligator's mouth and eyes, as well as used to pin its limbs to its side.

"Once they get their foot down, they can roll over and wing around so that's dangerous," Maffo said.

Under South Carolina law, the alligator must be "harvested," or killed.

Maffo said his grandson has been handling alligators since he was 3.

"I've just never been afraid of alligators," Joey told today from the beach in Hilton Head, where he and his grandfather had just snared a 6-foot gator.

Aside from a few scrapes and bruises, neither Joey nor his grandfather has ever been seriously injured.

"I wouldn't take a chance on letting it bite me," he said. "I just stay away from the mouth."

The 12-year-old thinks his grandfather's job is awesome but couldn't quite put his finger on what makes it so much fun.

"I love it," Joey said. "I don't know how to explain it. It's just really fun. You get an adrenaline rush."

Maffo said, "He has the utmost respect for the animal. I would never let him go near it without me."

He said his 17-year-old granddaughter is also pretty good. As Maffo chatted, he was watching Joey on the beach with today's gator, which had already been taped.

"He just took a 6-foot alligator in a headlock," he said. "He's just practicing his maneuvers and techniques. It's all routine."

"Joey, bring that gator over here in the shade. He's a trip," Maffo said with a chuckle. "How many people would play with a 6-foot alligator?"