Hunters living in Alabama have probably heard this story already, but for the rest, here’s a primer: the state’s Department of Conservation and Natural Resources has been operating what sounds like an illegal lottery system under the pretense of giving entrants a chance to hunt alligators. The illegal alligator hunting lottery, which has been running since last August, encourages hunters to pay $6 for the chance of winning an alligator hunting permit. Such specialized permits cannot be had from any other source, but hunters itching for an alligator license can enter the lottery as many times as they want to increase their chance at victory.
Controversy over the seemingly unethical lottery system has exploded in recent weeks, prompting politicians to take different sides of the argument. On one hand, Alabama Senator Paul Sanford believes the lottery is a way for the Department of Conservation to “nickel and dime hunters.” Meanwhile, Gunter Guy, the Conservation Commissioner, thinks the system is the best possible way of managing hunting for a limited resource. The money goes toward supporting a mandatory alligator hunting class and all-night staffing at alligator hunting sites.
Both politicians certainly have made good points. Sanford, a deer hunter himself, seems to be taking up the battle of the everyman – and the considerations of the average hunter – in battling this lottery system and advocating for a fairer method of permit distribution. However, considering the limited nature of alligator hunting opportunities, Guy has a point as well: there isn’t really a good way to handle the number of hunters who are interested pursuing such game. According to the Montgomery Advertiser, the state of Alabama administered only 275 alligator hunting permits last year, a small percentage of the some 2,400 people who applied for them. And while other states with limited animal resources often increase the price of a permit and limit the bag count, the chance of getting lucky and being able to hunt alligators all season long for just six bucks offers its own sort of appeal.
Certainly, Alabama isn’t the only state with a hunting license lottery system: Minnesota has lotteries in place for bears and special kinds of dear, while numerous parts of New England use lottery systems to limit the number of permits given out for moose hunting. For all of Senator Sanford’s uproar about the Alabama gator lottery being illegal or unethical, similar systems are pretty standard and fairly successful. The lucky winners will like them and the unlucky losers won’t; isn’t that always the case?