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Florida Alligator Hunting

For the past 25 years, Florida’s statewide alligator harvest has been nationally and internationally recognized as a model program for the sustainable use of a natural resource. Each year, alligator management units are established with appropriate harvest quotas to provide recreational opportunities for Floridians and nonresidents to take up to two alligators per permit.

Those applicants who are awarded a permit must purchase two CITES tags and an Alligator Trapping License.

Female alligators rarely exceed 9 feet in length, but males can grow much larger. The Florida state record alligator measured 14 feet, 3.5 inches. The gator was a male, taken from Lake Washington in Brevard County. The heaviest Florida gator ever recorded weighed 1,043 pounds (13 feet, 10-1/2 inches long) and was taken from Orange Lake in Alachua County.

Alligators range from southeast Oklahoma and east Texas on the western side of their range to North Carolina and Florida in the east. They prefer freshwater lakes and slow-moving rivers and their associated wetlands, but they also can be found in brackish water.

Alligators have been part of Florida’s environment for thousands of years, and records of commercial utilization of alligators in Florida date back to the late 1800’s. Harvesting of alligators went unregulated through the early 1900’s. In 1943, concerns about population declines stimulated establishment of a 4-foot minimum size limit (the first statewide alligator regulation) but declines continued. Eventually, in 1962, the legal alligator harvest season was closed but this did not stop exploitation because state laws could not battle the well-established interstate network of illegal hide dealers. As a result, alligators were included on the first list of endangered species in 1967.

By the mid-1970’s, alligator population surveys conducted by Commission biologists indicated that most populations were increasing rapidly. At that time, the Commission was receiving 4,000 to 5,000 nuisance alligator complaints annually. In 1977, the status of Florida’s alligator population was reclassified from endangered to threatened by the U. S. Fish and Wildlife Service. This change in status allowed the Commission to initiate management of the nuisance alligator problem through harvest, which continues today as the Statewide Nuisance Alligator Program.

In 1980, the Commission’s alligator research staff began focusing its efforts on the impact of alligator harvests on wild populations. As a result of these investigations and subsequent experimental alligator harvests on selected wetlands, the Commission created an Alligator Management Program (AMP) to implement alligator harvest programs under the concept of controlled annual harvests while sustaining the economic, aesthetic, and ecological values of alligators as a renewable natural resource. This program enables the harvest of non-hatchling alligators (those greater than about 18 inches in total length) on specific public water bodies or within specific counties. Each permit authorizes the take of two alligators on a specific harvest unit. A total of 6,903 permits were issued in 2011.

REQUIREMENTS

• Permit holders cannot give their permit or CITES tags to someone else. Only the permitted licensed trapper and his licensed agents may possess the CITES tags.

• Alligator Trapping or Trapping Agent license holders may take alligators, but only while in the presence of (in the same boat with) the permit holder.

TIPS

• Purchase your equipment and become familiar with it well in advance of your harvest period.

• If you make agreements with guides, processors, hide buyers, or taxidermists make sure you do so in writing. It is not uncommon for verbal or “handshake” agreements to fall through, and the Commission has no authority to enforce any agreement between private individuals.

• If you choose to process your alligators using a licensed alligator processor or sell your hides to a licensed hide buyer, you should contact these merchants prior to the beginning of your hunt.

• Develop a plan to cool your alligator as quickly as possible once it is harvested. Alligator meat can spoil quickly under field conditions.

• Any licensed alligator trapper, acting as an agent of the permit holder, may take alligators but only in the presence of (in the same boat with) the permit holder.

REVIEW YOUR MATERIALS

• Read your permit carefully and understand all permit provisions prior to hunting. Check your name, harvest area and period for accuracy.

• Make sure that you have two (2) CITES tags issued with each permit and that the tag numbers match what is listed on your permit. If you are permitted for the Everglades and Francis S. Taylor WMA or Holey Land WMA alligator hunts, make sure you also have two (2) orange mercury tags.

• Make sure that you have a harvest report form for each CITES tag issued. We highly encourage you to submit harvest report forms online at MyFWC.com/alligator.

• If there are any problems with your license or tags, please contact the Office of Licensing and Permitting at 850-488-3641 as soon as possible.

HARVEST PERIODS

For most harvest areas, harvest periods shall be from 5 p.m. on August 15 until 10 a.m. August 22 (period 1), from 5 p.m. on August 22 until 10 a.m. August 29 (period 2), from 5 p.m. on August 29 until 10 a.m. September 5 (period 3), and from 5 p.m. on September 5 until 10 a.m. September 12 (period 4).

Alligators may be taken only by the use of artificial lures or baited, wooden pegs less than 2 inches in length attached to a hand-held restraining line and hand-held snares, harpoons, gigs, snatch hooks, and manually operated spears, spearguns, crossbows and bows with projectiles attached to a restraining line.

The use of baited hooks, gig-equipped bang sticks, or firearms for taking alligators is prohibited except that bang sticks are permitted for taking alligators attached to a restraining line.

Alligators must be killed immediately upon capture. Catching and releasing alligators is not allowed.

For additional information on rules and regulations visit the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission at http://myfwc.com.

Florida Alligator Hunting