The hunting of them was not always allowed; they were off limits for years. But alligator hunting in Florida was resumed in 1988 after the state population of this former endangered species rapidly recovered. Now residents have them everywhere—backyards, ditches and everywhere in between. But rising steadily, along with the increased gator population, has been alligator harvest. Hunters in Florida tagged just over 2,500 of the big reptiles in 2000, but bagged over 7,700 of the creatures during 2010 hunting season.
So are the strict regulations surrounding alligator hunting in Florida necessary? that is exactly what state officials are asking themselves. The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission recently authorized its staff to begin working on a package of amendments to the alligator hunting law to be presented to the state Legislature. A coordinator of the alligator management program said the review may simply streamline a statute that was probably overloaded with rules because of the sensitivity of hunting a former endangered species.
Thee hunting regulations are from a time when the alligator was just considered fully recovered and there was a lot of concern. But the regulations have been in place for over 20 years now. But when alligator numbers keep going up in the face of hunting, maybe things need to less cumbersome. Yes, the alligator hunting regulations are probably long overdue.
With that said, the American alligator appears to have stood up well in Florida. But many will suggest that the population remains too low in some regions, including possibly the Everglades. Large alligators are a keystone species that formerly dictated their environment. The tendency of hunters to go for trophy alligators has decreased the giant, 20-plus year old alligators from the Florida landscape. But the numbers are still up.
Older alligator are becoming more rare. The number of alligators is going up. Large alligators eat smaller ones.
Under Florida’s current alligator hunting program, the state establishes harvest quotas for different water bodies and regions to prevent excessive hunting in localized areas. The hunt is tightly controlled, with tags and forms required for each harvested gator. A drawing is held for permits, with more than 6,000 issued for the statewide hunt that ran from August 15 through November 1 of 2011. Selected hunters may tag up to two alligators.
Wildlife biologist estimate that there are approximately 1.3 million alligators in Florida swamps, rivers and lakes. That number has held steady over the past few years, but nuisance alligator complaints are up sharply over the past two decades, up 50% from 1991 to 2006. There were 18,307 nuisance alligator complains in the state of Florida in 2006.
But the state’s review of the current alligator hunting regulations may result in the removal of extra rules that aren’t applied to game animals such as white-tailed deer. And though officials may skin down the regulations, biologists state that less restrictive laws and reporting are unlikely to result in an increase or decrease in gator hunting. If the commission approves the proposals, they would go to the state Legislature in 2014. Let’s see how big of a bite they take out of the regulations.