March 30, 2014

Beaufort alligator wrangler could soon become reality-TV star

Most people know Joe Maffo as Beaufort County’s resident alligator wrangler, wildlife expert and Critter Management owner.

But now, people around the country might get a chance to meet him, too — on television.

Maffo is negotiating to have his own reality-like TV show that would focus on his family, educating people about wildlife and, of course, his critter-removal business — in which he frequently wrangles alligators, snakes, bats, lizards and more.

“There’s no show out there like we would do and not anybody that is going to teach anyone else anything like I will,” Maffo said.

No one will ever replace Steve Irwin, the late host and star of the television show “The Crocodile Hunter,” Maffo said, “but I want to do something like that with the wildlife of the Lowcountry.”

Maffo said he is in the final stages of work with an entertainment company and nearly ready for production. Maffo has discussed finances and signed contracts for the show, which he said might air on the A&E network or the History Channel.

Joy Huang, the vice president of development at Original Media, the company working on the show, said she is unable to comment on the project at this time. Original Media is responsible for shows like “Swamp People,” “Mudcats,” “Storm Chasers,” “LA Ink” and “BBQ Pitmasters. “

Maffo first began talking about a show last fall, shortly after an Island Packet video of him and his 12-year-old grandson, Joey, wrangling an alligator caught fire, he said.

The whole family would be part of the show: Maffo’s daughter, Critter Management’s biologist and several other people from the company and his grandchildren, who aren’t afraid of getting dirty.

Maffo said that when trying to sell Huang on a series, he emphasized that in addition to the action involved with wrangling alligators from the area’s marshes and lagoons, he cares about the animals and wants to educate people about them.

Maffo, 68, said he’s wrangled about 8,000 alligators in the 22 years at this job, and doesn’t plan to let up any time soon.

“But it’s not just alligators — it’s snakes and bats and lizards and raccoons,” Maffo said. “That stuff isn’t everyone’s cup of tea, but it’s my cup of tea.” Maffo is confident he can draw viewers, just as he draws people to show-and-tells programs at the Coastal Discovery Museum and other places. He also frequently teaches lessons in schools. If everything goes as planned, the show could begin production in May, Maffo said.

“It was so cool that they got in touch with me, and now I just really want this,” he said. “I just really want to teach all these people and educate them all about nature, because we can all get along.”

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