Louisiana Deadly 60


Louisiana

Steve and the team are on the search for deadly animals in the southern US. The contenders are everywhere, not least the alligators that live in just about every lake.


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Transcript


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My name's Steve Backshall.

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You can call me Steve.

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I'm on a mission to find the Deadly 60.

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Ow!

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That's 60 deadly creatures from around the world.

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TIGER ROARS

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And you're coming with me every step of the way.

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Ow!

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We're here, in Louisiana, USA

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looking for the swamp beasts with the biggest bite.

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Louisiana is in the heart of the Deep South.

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It's hot and humid and there's a lot of water about.

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The perfect place for all sorts of cool deadly critters to hang out

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and in particular, reptiles.

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It's what many people call "gator country".

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And what's a gator?

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Well, it's a word you'll be hearing a fair bit in this programme.

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You could say it's my fee.

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This part of the States, the best known top-of-the-line predator

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is the alligator.

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And the first animal we're looking for is, well,

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it's a kind of alligator and this is its skull.

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But believe it or not, it's not a type of crocodile.

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It's not even a reptile.

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In fact, this amazing skull and that face full of teeth

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belong to a fish.

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The first stage for us to find one of these giant fish

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was to get some help from a few locals.

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And then we took to the water.

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This part of Louisiana is an absolute labyrinth of saltwater marshes

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and swamps and waterways.

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They call it the bayou.

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And beneath the surface of this is an incredible amount of life.

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Huge quantities of shrimp and crab and fish,

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and that obviously brings in the predators.

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To find our monster fish, there's really only one way...

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and that's to go fishing.

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So what we've got here is a bait fish, a mullet.

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On a hook there.

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It doesn't have a barbed end so it won't hurt the fish.

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And this - soft drinks bottle - is going to act as the buoy

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to float at the surface and tell us where the bait is.

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I'm going to chuck this in, and hopefully tomorrow morning

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we should have our next Deadly 60 contender.

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He's steering the boat while trying to do sound!

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STEVE LAUGHS

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You didn't follow that one, that was a good one!

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That was my first good throw!

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It's just after dawn.

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The sun has just broken up over the horizon, starting to warm us up

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and we're all really excited.

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I know Nick, the sound man's particularly excited.

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STEVE LAUGHS

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Because out there, about 45 minutes away,

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are all of our floats we put out last night

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and we have no idea what's on the end of them.

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But we're really, really hoping that our next Deadly 60 contender

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is waiting for us.

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All along the banks of the bayou are absolutely hundreds

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of herons and egrets. I've never seen so many in my entire life.

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The fact that there are so many of them means these waters

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must be absolutely stuffed with fish.

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They're fantastic hunters.

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You see them standing along the river edge almost motionless

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with their head back like this, and then wham, they strike like a snake.

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Incredible birds.

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Fabulous!

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Such regal birds.

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Shrimp boat!

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This is what Louisiana's really famous for.

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INAUDIBLE

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Johnny? Johnny? We've got one.

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Our first buoy - just there. Look, in front of us.

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-One back there.

-See them over there.

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No, nothing on that one.

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Ah!

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Eugh! Ha ha!

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OK.

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No go and a soaking.

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-What do you think of this, Nick?

-This is wicked!

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He loves his fishing!

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Oh! We got something!

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When a bottle starts swimming away from you like that

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it's definitely a good sign.

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Ah!

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STEVE LAUGHS

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This is the one. No!

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Look at the speed of that!

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So this...

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..is it.

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Oh!

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It's a drum.

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Wow!

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Right, off you go, big fella.

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Oh! It's swimming away!

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Did you see that? It dived!

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Oh ho-ho-ho!

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STEVE LAUGHS

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We've caught something big.

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STEVE LAUGHS Look at that!

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Well...

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I don't believe it! STEVE LAUGHS

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We've got our Deadly 60 animal.

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What we've got to do is figure out how to get it into the boat

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without losing fingers.

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OK.

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So this...

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is the Alligator Gar.

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Also known as the garpike.

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It's an absolutely magnificent creature.

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Take a look into those jaws.

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Look at those teeth!

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Now we've got a little bit of leeway

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with working with them out of the water.

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They can stay out the water for as much as two hours and still be OK.

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You can certainly see where they get their "alligator" name from.

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If I hold the snout up like that...

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And running down, those amazing scales.

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He certainly looks more like a crocodilian than a fish.

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Wonderful!

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It's reckoned they've been around for as much as 60 million years.

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This actually doesn't just catch fish around here,

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they'll even come to the surface and catch birds, even squirrels.

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And he really is ferocious.

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With a set of gnashers like that,

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the Alligator Gar is definitely going on the Deadly 60.

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Right...

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Oh.

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That's a big fish.

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Off he goes.

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A huge prehistoric armour-plated fish

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with two rows of deadly fangs.

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Not what you'd want nibbling on your toes.

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But great for killing with.

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# East bound and down Loaded up and truckin'

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# Are we gonna do what they say can't be done

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# We've got a long way to go and a short time to get there

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# I'm eastbound just watch old Bandit run... #

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It's one down and a drive to the north of the state for, well...

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another swamp.

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This swamp may look pretty grotty

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but if you look at any part of the water for any length of time

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just does seem to be alive.

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There's absolutely hundreds of tadpoles, small shrimp,

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tiny fish, all just playing around in the shallows here.

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And that means there's going to be something here feeding on them.

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That's what we're hoping to find.

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The snake of the swamps is called the Cottonmouth.

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The name comes from the inside of its mouth

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looking like the locally grown cotton plants.

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This snake is a specialist at hunting fish.

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Their colour makes them almost impossible to see,

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so to find one, we're going to have to get dirty.

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Every step and you get this disgusting stench

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coming up from the mud

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of rotting vegetation.

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It's hideous.

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This rather innocuous looking pile of sand here

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is home to not one deadly animal, but tens of thousands.

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Er, they're red fire ants.

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Not supposed to be in this part of the world at all,

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they come from South or Central America, and they've been brought in

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inadvertently by people.

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And if you're wondering why they've got a fierce reputation,

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all you need to do is get too close to this nest and you'll see.

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If I just tap it with my snake stick

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within seconds...

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you'll probably see an absolute volcanic eruption of ants.

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The watery world of the swamp doesn't bother fire ants.

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They can even cross the water by linking legs

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and floating like some sort of prickly life raft.

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Outside swamps, they can live almost anywhere.

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But wherever they do turn up, they cause trouble.

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In particular, their attraction to electricity

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means they often short-circuit important equipment.

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CAR HORNS BEEP

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They get the name fire ants because every single bite and sting

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um, feels like a burning hot needle being plunged into your flesh.

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Problem is they don't just bite by the ones or twos,

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they bite in their hundreds.

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They even have an attack signal that makes them attack at the same time.

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And, er...

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this backbone here is from a small mammal that was unlucky enough

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to either die near here

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or to be too close to here and got stung to death

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and it's been cleaned to the bone by these guys.

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Deadly and very cool animals.

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But I'm still holding out hope that I'll find myself a cottonmouth.

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Here!

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Big?

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It is a cottonmouth!

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Got it.

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OK. Come back.

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OK...

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Right...

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Out you come, fella. Oh!

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It made a strike at my snake hook.

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OK, I just want to get you out into the open.

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So you can see him.

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Easy, Steve.

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No, no. I know.

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Right...

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I'm hoping if I put him down here...

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Here you go, look at that display!

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Showing off the white inside of the mouth.

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And striking.

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Just hold there a sec. Not going to hurt you.

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Look at the tail.

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Going absolutely crazy back here. Flickering backwards and forwards.

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If Nick brings in his boom,

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we might just hear...

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Look at that tail going crazy!

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RATTLING

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When it hits dry leaves, it makes a sound

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just like a rattlesnake's rattle.

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I must have walked within feet of him and he didn't move at all.

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But then Nick the sound man, I guess stepped almost right on him

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and just screamed out for me.

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It really shows quite how much care they'll take not to be seen.

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Good spot, Nick!

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I'm not sure I screamed.

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STEVE LAUGHS You did!

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Now he's settled in place

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you can really see how effective the camouflage is.

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The dark mottled colours of the ground here

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match absolutely perfectly with the colours running down his back.

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It's only really when he shows off the inside of his mouth -

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that white, cotton-like interior -

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that that's when you see, not only how he gets his name

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but how he creates a threat to scare away other animals.

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What's particularly unusual though about the cottonmouth

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is the way that it chooses to hunt.

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The Latin scientific name for this snake is "piscivorus",

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means "fish eater".

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And this is a snake that, very unusually for the vipers,

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lives an enormous amount of its life in the water.

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It's a truly sub-aquatic snake.

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Which is very, very unusual for vipers.

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And though it will feed on all kinds of different things

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its main diet is fish.

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Vipers all over the world specialise in hunting warm-blooded mammals.

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But these snakes like nothing better than a nice cold fish.

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The cottonmouth...

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the master fisherman of southern America...

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RATTLING

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..with an incredible flickering tail threat display

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and a white mouth that's going to scare anything away.

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It's definitely going on the Deadly 60.

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Vipers that eat fish are about as common as pants on a parrot.

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And for that reason this fish fancying cottonmouth

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joins the Deadly 60.

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Ok, the snake was sensational.

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It's time to get back to the alligator theme.

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We couldn't come to these swamps without at least trying

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to find an alligator.

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During the daytime, although there's a lot of them around

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really all you tend to see is a fair of nostrils and eyes

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above the surface of the water, if that.

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But at night time, we do have one thing in our favour,

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which is that crocodilian eyes reflect light bright ruby-red

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so I've got a big torch here

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and I'm going to go out, see if I can spot some.

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Alligators are cousins of the crocodiles

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and belong to the same group called crocodilians.

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They're similar looking, but if you look at them side by side

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then it's pretty easy to tell the difference.

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Alligators on the left, have much broader, more rounded snouts.

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They can grow to 4.5 metres and weigh about five times more than me,

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which makes them by far the biggest reptile in the USA

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and top swamp predator.

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A rather magnificent raft spider.

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Just scampering over the surface of the steamy water.

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Very unusual to see them out completely in the water like this.

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Usually they just sit at the edge with their front two legs

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feeling the surface tension for anything coming close.

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Look at that!

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It's big as well.

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About the size of the palm of my hand.

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But he's right now hunting for small fish

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and invertebrates.

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Nick, torch!

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Just...just there.

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It's an armadillo!

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I don't believe it!

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OK, I know they're not deadly

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but I really want to see it.

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Whether it wants to be seen by us is another matter.

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It's somewhere in this thicket.

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Oh, no!

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Oh, which way?

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Do you see him?

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INDISTINCT REPLY

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Well, that was all rather embarrassing.

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He got away from me and ran straight between the cameraman's legs!

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STEVE LAUGHS

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Right, shall we go and find ourselves an alligator?

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Luck just wasn't on our side and the wild gators were not letting me

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get close to them. But if you can't win, then, well...cheat.

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I'd heard about some very special alligators in a nearby zoo

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that I just couldn't resist showing you.

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Deadly 60's all about animals in the wild.

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But here in the National Audubon Zoo in New Orleans

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they have these impossibly rare white alligators.

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They kind of look like a replica of an alligator

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that's been carved out of soap or porcelain.

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Until they move.

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And then all of a sudden they become very real.

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This is caused by a... Oh!

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You're giving me a big gape!

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See, all of a sudden, as soon as they move...

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turns into a real animal.

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This whiteness is caused by a genetic abnormality,

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which means they don't have the pigments that give them colour.

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He's incredible. He's like a ghost gator.

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This is Black Bayou wetlands.

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All of these cypress trees, turning autumn gold

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reflected perfectly in this glassy smooth water.

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It's about as beautiful as a swamp could ever be.

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But somewhere beneath these dark waters

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is a monster with one of the most powerful scalpel-sharp jaws

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in the whole of the animal kingdom

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and that's what we're hoping to find.

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The monster in question is called an alligator snapping turtle.

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They spend a lot of their time sitting still,

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looking a bit like a log.

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And the clever thing is they get their lunch to come to them.

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On the inside of their open mouth a fleshy growth wiggles invitingly

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to passing fish.

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Any who take the bait find themselves grabbed

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by some of the most powerful jaws in the world.

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To help find one, I've enlisted the help of an expert.

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This is Mitch. He's studying the turtles.

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The Black Bayou is pretty vast.

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And the water is, as you can see, it's pretty murky.

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So our chances of actually just happening across the animal

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we're looking for, are pretty slender.

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We put out these hoop net traps...

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And there's fresh fish bait inside.

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I'm really hoping...

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..that we've caught something special.

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OK, our first trap's empty. We've still got six more to try.

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I'm still confident that we're going to find something.

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I should never, ever say that on camera!

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STEVE LAUGHS

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Next trap's just in front of us here

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and it's a good deal lower in the water than the others.

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Which could mean that something heavy inside is keeping it down.

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Oh, wow!

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Yes!

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Oh, my goodness. Look at the size of it!

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Two! There's two in there!

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Oh, my God!

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Look at the size of it!

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STEVE LAUGHS

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Wow!

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Congratulations.

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We actually have three.

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I don't believe it!

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Look at the size of the head on that one!

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Mitch, is this a record for you?

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Three in one trap IS a record.

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Steve, you're my good luck charm.

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Look at the size of this one here!

0:22:590:23:01

It's got to be a big male, hasn't it, Mitch?

0:23:010:23:03

When they're that big, they're easy to tell male from female.

0:23:030:23:07

I cannot tell you how heavy this is.

0:23:110:23:14

That is an absolute monster!

0:23:180:23:21

Two enormous males.

0:23:210:23:23

And one smaller turtle.

0:23:230:23:25

I was just starting to feel that, er, the day

0:23:250:23:29

was going to have no results.

0:23:290:23:31

We checked all our traps. This was the last one that was left.

0:23:310:23:34

And, um, well...

0:23:340:23:36

absolutely unreal.

0:23:360:23:38

Three giant alligator snapping turtles.

0:23:380:23:41

We're just going to be real careful, real gentle

0:23:410:23:45

try to ease them out.

0:23:450:23:47

Try and get the big male out first.

0:23:480:23:51

You'll notice, as we're moving into the turtle,

0:23:520:23:55

we'll keep our hands a lot further away from the head

0:23:550:23:59

than you would expect.

0:23:590:24:01

That's because it, actually... When it strikes,

0:24:010:24:03

the head really extends forward from the front of the shell...

0:24:030:24:07

a good distance.

0:24:070:24:09

And, where as with the small one here, I guess I'd be in danger

0:24:090:24:13

of losing a finger,

0:24:130:24:14

I think it's pretty safe to say that if my hand or even my arm

0:24:140:24:18

were to get too close to the jaws of this big fella

0:24:180:24:22

then I'd probably lose it.

0:24:220:24:23

Wow!

0:24:250:24:26

Well done, Mitch.

0:24:330:24:35

OK.

0:24:360:24:37

Steve, if you hold what you've got

0:24:370:24:39

-then just do your best to keep your fingers clear.

-Yeah.

0:24:390:24:44

Just make sure your right hand doesn't stray from that spot.

0:24:440:24:49

OK.

0:24:490:24:51

Right...

0:24:510:24:52

Good job, man. Good job. You've got him.

0:24:520:24:55

Woo-hoo!

0:24:550:24:56

That is a big turtle.

0:24:560:24:59

Probably the largest freshwater turtle in the world.

0:25:000:25:03

But that isn't really what's so impressive about him.

0:25:030:25:07

Look at the size of that head!

0:25:070:25:09

It's totally out of proportion to the whole of the rest of the body

0:25:090:25:13

and most of that is just pure muscle power

0:25:130:25:17

driving that jaw.

0:25:170:25:19

At the edge of it is, well, it's incredibly sharp.

0:25:190:25:24

It doesn't have teeth cos it doesn't need to have, really.

0:25:240:25:26

It's almost like a great big curved kitchen knife.

0:25:260:25:29

You can see the hooked snout at the end

0:25:290:25:31

and... Actually, I'm not going to be able to hold him like this for long

0:25:310:25:35

cos he's just too heavy.

0:25:350:25:37

They can get to be heavier than I am.

0:25:370:25:39

What do you reckon, Mitch, how heavy is this turtle?

0:25:390:25:41

About 110 pounds, Steve.

0:25:410:25:43

-110 pounds.

-Pound for pound, probably a lot stronger than you or I!

0:25:430:25:47

That's for sure!

0:25:470:25:49

Absolutely sure. I'm having so much difficulty holding him.

0:25:490:25:53

Oh, look at that!

0:25:530:25:54

You can see how I'm really straining to hold him

0:25:540:25:58

but you can see how far the neck extends.

0:25:580:26:00

And that's how he hunts.

0:26:000:26:03

I mean, looking at the shape of the head and the body

0:26:030:26:06

it's very irregular.

0:26:060:26:09

The colour's quite dark and he blends in really, really well

0:26:090:26:13

with all the vegetation at the bottom of the water here.

0:26:130:26:16

And then as soon as a fish gets too close, the head snaps

0:26:160:26:21

out like that.

0:26:210:26:22

The jaws clamp shut incredibly quickly,

0:26:220:26:25

and the fish is history.

0:26:250:26:27

There's a lot of animals in this series that people say to me,

0:26:280:26:32

"What on earth are you doing putting that on the Deadly 60?"

0:26:320:26:35

I don't think anyone's going to say that

0:26:350:26:36

about the alligator snapping turtle.

0:26:380:26:40

He really is a living dinosaur.

0:26:400:26:42

I'm going to put him back cos I just can't hold him any more.

0:26:420:26:46

All right, big fella!

0:26:460:26:47

In you go.

0:26:470:26:49

It's not only going in the Deadly 60

0:26:510:26:53

but also on my personal list

0:26:530:26:55

of creatures that I never

0:26:550:26:57

want to get bitten by.

0:26:570:26:59

Monster-sized, monster-looking

0:26:590:27:01

with monster jaws -

0:27:010:27:03

it's a living monster.

0:27:030:27:06

OK, big fella...

0:27:080:27:10

..in you go.

0:27:110:27:13

Coming up next time on the Deadly 60...

0:27:150:27:18

Oh!

0:27:180:27:19

Subtitles by Red Bee Media Ltd

0:27:380:27:40

E-mail [email protected]

0:27:400:27:43

Steve and the team are on the search for deadly animals in the steaming swamps of the southern USA. The contenders are everywhere, not least the alligators that live in just about every pond and lake. But the first animal on the list is a complete surprise, a monster fish with two rows of sharp fangs that certainly keeps Steve on his toes.

The crew find themselves up to their armpits in a swamp hoping to find a deadly snake with the unusual name of cottonmouth. Last but not least, Steve and his team come face to face with an enormous record-breaking predatory turtle.


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