2018-07-11 / Front Page

Gator Man Goes to Rattlers

by Terry Toole

Bennie West is holding a fine rattlesnake found in his yard. Bennie West is holding a fine rattlesnake found in his yard. For many years Bennie West of Colquitt has been known as the Gator Man. He caught, sold skins and meat of nuisance alligators and disposed of bad alligators for the Georgia Game and Fish Department. I guess he still is a licensed gator catcher, but he doesn’t do much of it anymore since the hide market has gone south and isn’t worth getting a finger or an arm eaten off, so he went to milking another of our products of southwest Georgia, the deadly rattlesnake, to sell the venom.

Then that market went bad, and they quit buying venom.

Bennie said if you hear of him going into another business, run from it. It should be heading south if he gets into it.

Most of the businesses Bennie gets into, no one else is too interested in trying.

About this particular snake, Bennie said he was inside his home just off Thompson Town Road when he heard someone shooting in his front yard. He went to see what was happening. It was Jerry Torbert shooting at this very large rattlesnake at his mailbox in his yard. Bennie got his gun to go see what was happening and yelled to Jerry not to shoot. Jerry’s wife Maxine was with Torbert. He had missed, Bennie did what he does the best, caught the large snake.

Now Bennie is quite a large man, possibly 6’2” to 6’4. After he very carefully caught the large reptile, he held it up over his head, and he was five to five and one half feet long, and his large hands went about one-half around the rattler.

Since the price of venom went below the possibility of getting bit and losing a finger or a hand or dying from snake bite, Bennie took the huge rattler to a place at least three miles from where anyone should be.

“The price of venom might go back up, and a snake this size would milk out approximately five to six ounces of precious venom. It takes about an ounce to kill a man,” Bennie said. “This is a fine size snake that weighed about eight pounds, which is unusually big, but I saw a live one over in Alabama that weighed 22 pounds. Now that was the biggest rattler I’ve seen in these parts. That huge rattlesnake had eaten and swallowed two rabbits, which helped in making him weigh more,” he continued.

Mr. West said that this just might be a female snake, and might have young ones. The rattlesnake had rather just be left alone, or crawl off. The very distinctive rattle warns anyone or anything to beware. The baby rattlesnakes are just as dangerous and just as poisonous except they do not warn you that they are there with a rattle until they grow them, much later.

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