Phase I application period ends May 16
By Stan Kirkland, FWC
Those people looking for a different type of hunting experience will soon have their chance. The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) is accepting permit applications now to hunt alligators during the upcoming season.
The state alligator harvest season is Aug. 15 through Nov. 1. It is the twenty-fifth year Florida has had a statewide alligator hunting season.
Steve Stiegler, a wildlife biologist in the alligator management program, said about 5,800 permits will be available this year, which is down slightly from 2011. Each alligator harvest permit allows the trapper to take up to two alligators.
“We survey a number of lakes and rivers around the state and for the most part the alligator population is stable,” he said.
If previous years are an indicator, somewhere between 7,000 and 8,000 alligators will be bagged during the 11-week season.
The statewide alligator harvest Phase I application period began May 2 and will run through May 16. Applicants may submit only one application, with the chance of being drawn for one of five hunt choices and hunting periods. It is a random draw selection.
Any permits not issued after the Phase I period will be issued through Phase II and if needed, Phase III application periods.
There are several ways that alligator harvest applications can be submitted. They can be submitted at any county tax collector’s office, license agent (retail outlet that sells hunting and fishing licenses) and online at fl.wildlifelicense.com. Applications are not accepted by mail.
Permits for Florida hunters cost $272. That includes two CITES tags, which must be affixed to each harvested gator. Non-residents must pay $1,022.
Stiegler said it’s common for permitted gator trappers to have one or more assistants on board the vessel to help them. Each assistant must have a $52 Alligator Trapping Agent’s License.
Florida’s alligator population today is a far cry from 1967, when alligators landed on the endangered species list. Today, estimates put the alligator population in Florida waters around 1.3 million animals. Across their range, Florida’s alligator population ranks second only to that of Louisiana.
FWC rules don’t specify an upper limit to the size of the gator, only that they have to be larger than a hatchling (18 inches).
Gator trappers can hunt during their assigned period from 5 p.m. to 10 a.m. each day. Most use either a detachable gig or harpoon, crossbow or bow-and-arrow, with the gig, bolt or arrow tied to a restraining line, or a rod and reel with a snatch hook. Gator hunters in Florida are not allowed to use conventional firearms, but a bangstick can be used to kill the alligator.
Some gator hunters who are successful in bagging a gator choose to process the animals themselves for the edible meat and hides. Others may sell the carcass to an alligator processor, or make a deal with a processor to split the head, hide, and meat .
For more information on the alligator hunt, go to MyFWC.com/alligator and click on “Statewide Alligator Harvest Program.”