The recovery of alligators in Florida is a real conservation success story — so much so that the state feels comfortable with opening up alligator hunting to 24 hours a day — and include methods that could make hunting gators easier.
The new rule opens up alligator hunting between 10 a.m. and 5 p.m., which Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) staff say provides more opportunities for youth and senior hunters, and reduces the possible time crunch some people face between harvesting and landing their alligators.
“Florida’s recreational alligator harvest is recognized nationally and internationally as a contemporary approach of meeting our user needs while employing a science-based sustainable use management,” said Brooke Talley, FWC Alligator Management Program Coordinator, at the FWC meetings in Gainesville this week.
Florida’s alligator management system is undergoing a review to examine the program in its entirety, and the alligator statewide harvest was the first element investigated. Stakeholders on the FWC’s Alligator Technical Assistance Group met and recommended the changes, which staff then evaluated and brought to Commissioners.
The other change will allow people to use tethered spears shot from pressurized airguns. These airguns are supposed to be easier to use for hunters who may not be as strong, like children and seniors.
People at the previous Commission meetings in March raised concerns about the power of these airguns.
“We found that current state-of-the-art crossbows and airbows have comparable power and that the performance of these devices is significantly impacted by having that attached line to the bow and to the arrow,” Talley said. “So as you can imagine, having a tethered line will slow the arrow down.”
The rule changes were received well by meeting attendees.
“It just takes away complications and confusion out there,” said Newton Cook of the United Waterfowlers of Florida. “(The previous hours were) a nightmare for law enforcement – some guy’s got a gator hooked up and it’s 10:15 (a.m.), what are you going to do?”
In 2022, Florida will issue 7,000 permits to hunters for the season, which runs from Aug. 15 through Nov.1. The FWC reports 7,927 alligators harvested in 2021 with an average length of 8-feet, 4-inches.