The Valdosta Daily Times
“You don’t have to kill it, if you’re scared of it,” said Donny Bartow.
Born in Columbus, Miss., and a Hahira resident since the age of 8, Donny “Gatorman” Bartow has been a licensed nuisance gator trapper in Lowndes County for the last 10 years.
This profession is normally unknown to most people or thought to be appreciated by those in areas like Louisiana and Florida. However, with South Georgia being a mecca for swampland and the various species that live within it, it is not uncommon for alligator sightings to be reported in our area.
“It depends on the weather and the people,” Bartow said. “People live in neighborhoods with ponds. A lot of calls I get are for gators crossing the road.”
Donny has had an extreme passion for these reptiles ever since he discovered the thrill-seeking crocodile legend, Steve Irwin. “About the time ‘The Crocodile Hunter’ was on TV, I thought it would be cool to do that as a profession,” Bartow said. “Ever since then, people have called me the Gatorman; they don’t even call me by my real name anymore.”
Throughout his career as the Gatorman, Bartow averages between 30 to 100 alligators caught every year. He covers six counties in the state of Georgia including Lowndes, Clinch, Cook, Lanier, Echols and Brooks.
“I am one in 13 licensed nuisance trappers in the state,” Bartow said. “I am the only one licensed in our area.”
Bartow has been a strong believer throughout the years that it is unnecessary for residents to take alligator matters into their own hands. The majority of the time, Bartow is witness to citizens killing an alligator simply for being on their property and not because they are causing harm.
“They have made gators out to be man killers and that just simply isn’t the case,” Bartow said. “The gator isn’t being malicious.”
Bartow has grown weary of residents killing these creatures illiegally and reminds them that it is a felony for anyone to participate in acts like this without a license.
“You can face jail time and heavy fines,” Bartow said. “It’s not an endangered species but it belongs to the state of Georgia.”
In order to hunt and kill alligators in the state of Georgia, you must have a license to do so. Simply killing them because you’re frightened is a job best left to the “Gatorman,” he said.
“It’s either me or the game warden,” Bartow said. “Call 911 and I will be there. All safety is ensured to everyone involved. The most 911 calls I get are in Lowndes County.”
The largest alligator caught to date by Bartow was located in Clinch County back in 2006. Although it was a struggle, Bartow managed to trap the alligator and proudly displays its skull at every events he attends.
“He was 13 feet and 1,000 pounds,” Bartow said. “Had to pull him out with a truck.”
Over the last year, Bartow has striven to educate the public on the well being of these creatures. He has dedicated his time, money and knowledge to let people know about his profession.
He began his own television show called the “Gatorman,” depicting real-life scenarios in the nuisance trapping business.
“The alligator is the focus of the show,” Bartow said. “I am trying to show why it is necessary (gator trapping), and to educate people.”
Bartow’s main goal of the show is to inform the public about the real-life dangers in handling these kinds of animals. Bartow wants to bring a sense of truth to the media and break the cycle of false depictions through reality television programs involved in this type of work.
“Shows stage too much. I want people to see how it really is,” Bartow said. “It will help educate and bring an exciting aspect.”
Gatorman TV is new to the media and will be appearing over the next couple of months. It is packed with adrenaline and will feature the hunting and removal of dangerous animals, mainly alligators, but wild hogs as well, he said.
Bartow brought his knowledge of gator trapping to this year’s Home, Hobby and Outdoors that took place last month. He not only had the opportunity to promote his television program but also teach people not to be afraid. Donny even brought a baby alligator to the show, allowing people to hold it and take a look for themselves.
“Since the expo, three different organizations have called us out to come out and set up,” Bartow said. “If I have local sponsors, it would benefit them and the surrounding areas. We’re trying to market in any way we can.”
A huge supporter of the Gatorman has been his manager and good friend, Mike Roux.
“Mike runs the camera. I have other people who help me with the trapping,” Bartow said. “He’s been with me a couple years.”
The Gatorman is always looking for local sponsors or an extra pair of hands to help him in this business. If anyone is interested in being involved, e-mail Donny Bartow at firstname.lastname@example.org, or call Mike Roux at (229) 630-4180.