When the call was placed to connect me with Guardians of The Glades reality TV star Brittany Borges, she was doing what good ole’ Florida girls who live south of alligator alley and who work hard for a living do: Power washing.
The state is now fully in the rainy season and alligator mating season and is defined by the wetness of the air that surrounds every living thing. Power washing is de rigueur, as they say.
Also basking in the wet are varied reptiles, including the invasive species which flourish in the porous limestone base of a barely above sea-level state where the water table rises and falls with each season.
Right now, the water is high and the gators are everywhere. But Brittany, part of naturalist and conservationist Dusty Crum’s team of python snake hunters featured on the new Discovery series, is not fazed by critters and black water.
Like her friend and mentor Dusty, she appreciates the living things she grew up with in the Sunshine State.
Snakes, lizards, crocs, Asian carp and all sorts of little creatures have wound up in Florida’s Everglades.
Discovery has given a compelling platform to Brittany’s boss, a nature hero who gets the fact that the Everglades is a special place.
It serves as a filtration system and estuary where wildlife flourishes in this unusual ecosystem, the largest subtropical wilderness in North America.
Brittany Borges is part of Team WildMan, Dusty’s professional nickname.
She grew up in the outdoors, camping, hiking and hunting, thanks to a father who never told her she couldn’t because of her gender. And now, the grown sole female of his crew is a plumber and has her own handyman business.
But her enthusiasm for animals combined with her local “swamp girl” cred led to a life change after the rough break up of her 8-year marriage.
It was time for a change and her own mother urged her to reach out of her comfort zone and contact Dusty who was looking for brave souls to join him culling the most deadly of the invasives: The Burmese python.
She took the plunge and now has legions of fans following her every move on the series that Discovery has set forth.
We spoke to Brittany while down in Florida about her role on the series:
M&C: How do you get paid for each python kill?
Brittany Borges: Well, since I am a full-time plumber, I don’t do that part of the business but you’ll see Tom skinning them but first Dusty [Crum] normally brings them to the weigh station and then he collects and divvies up.
But I basically just help catch them. I don’t like killing animals. I love animals, I love all God’s creation so them keeping me out of that part of the business is a-okay.
M&C: What is your special talent?
Brittany: I’m the rookie, so they are training and teaching me their ways. They’re going to get old and bent out of shape so somebody has to take over [laughing] but yeah…I’m young and fiery, so there’s that.
M&C: There’s a lot of stuff out there. How did you get over that fear factor of stepping into the swamp?
Brittany: [Laughs] You can’t! It’s just full on black water. And the guys can pee wherever they what I have to go off and do like some random spot and you’ll see probably 50 alligators just looking at you with your butt hanging out and you’re like, ‘oh my god what am I doing with my life?’ [laughs]’ So just do it, just go out there and I don’t think about it, I just go out there to do it. That’s my life motivation right now.
M&C: How receptive were the others of Team Wildman of you coming into the fold?
Brittany: Just like hanging out at a bar with any guy, they look at you like, ‘oh my god… really, this girl?’ and then after five or ten 10 minutes they start laughing… and then by 15 to 20 minutes they are like, ‘okay, she is legit.’ And then once you’re out in the field they’re like, ‘holy crap, she’s not just a little blonde girl’..but it’s like initiation I don’t know how to describe it.
M&C: What would you say to the people in Florida who might release these unwanted reptiles into the ecosystems there? Is there a safe place to give up unwanted reptiles?
Brittany: I’m not sure if you know, but this [python] problem was originally because of a hurricane and that opened up a reptile vicinity on top of people releasing them. We do have what’s called a conservancy here if you see her animal or an unwanted animals you can turn them into the Conservancy.
I have a ton of friends and people that volunteer and work for them. They will rescue owls and that is where I brought my raccoons. I would find like five baby raccoons…you just bring them in there and they fix them up and they raise them so that they can survive in the wild and then they release them.
But if it’s an unwanted animal such as a python, I’m not sure what the Conservancy would do. Maybe they would use it for educational purposes? Not sure.
M&C: So its alligator mating season here right now, what can you share about south Florida with others outside of the region right now?
Brittany: It is so stinking hot here right now. You step outside, just a toe and you start sweating. Animal life… everyone is so scared of gators that it’s hilarious.
Every one of my friends out of state freaks out about a gator but when you are a local it’s like a swamp puppy.
It won’t harm you if you don’t harm them. They are even all over the golf courses around town and you know they’ll be right next to your ball, they don’t care. Everyone from out of state thinks that they’re like these attack dinosaurs. [laughs]
But don’t get me wrong, you don’t want to cross the nest because then the mama will definitely come after you so you just got to know your surroundings and be a little educated with the land.
M&C: Are you making a dent in the invasive python population?
Brittany: Have to be, absolutely and Dusty is one of 25 hired bounty hunters from this state so yes, he has a team but then there’s also other teams. The state hired people for a good reason.
M&C: On the series, it was mentioned your marriage ended. What do you want to say about that and fan reaction on Twitter to you?
Brittany: I don’t have Twitter so that’s funny. [laughs] Yes, we owned a business together, me and my ex-husband and so when he left me, he obviously took the business and I had no idea what to do. I was completely lost.
So I just started finding who I was, finding my way and I will say that I have a fiance now and he has helped me every step of the way. So I am engaged. I got engaged back in January.
M&C: Congratulations. Tell us something you have learned about Dusty Crum that nobody knows about.
Brittany: I would call him a swamp hippie.
M&C: Is that because he doesn’t wear shoes?
Brittany: [laughing] Right? But he’s just so chill and so nice and he is just one with the earth… and I don’t know… I think that’s the best way to personify him in a few words is to describe him as a swamp hippie!
Guardians of the Glades airs Tuesdays on Discovery.