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Early Signs Point to Successful Gator Hunt in Florida Wildlife Refuge

For the first time ever, an alligator hunt was made available to the public in Loxahatchee National Wildlife Refuge in Boynton Beach, Florida.

Early signs point to a successful and safe remainder of the season, according to the Palm Beach Post. The largest caught on opening weekend was 8 feet long, and most averaged about 6 feet.

Two separate harvest periods for the state's alligator hunting season will influence the dates that hunting in the refuge will be allowed.

  • Period 1: From 5 p.m. on August 15 until 10 a.m. on August 22
  • Period 2: From 5 p.m. on August 22 until 10 a.m. on August 29

Hunting is permitted the first two weekends during Harvest Period 1 and the first two weekends during Harvest Period 2. Following the close of Harvest Period 2, the remaining weekends in October will be open for alligator harvest permittees that possess unused CITES tags.

Each in-state hunter paid $272 for the permit, while out-of-state sportsmen paid $1,022.

Upon their arrival, the hunters were greeted by a dozen protesters from the Animal Rights Foundation of Florida, who displayed signs decrying the killing of wildlife in a refuge. Law enforcement officials from the U. S. Fish & Wildlife Service, Florida Fish & Wildlife Conservation Commission, and Broward and Palm Beach Sheriff's departments were also present to keep the peace and ensure the hunters and protesters were kept apart.

The gator hunters will be allowed to use harpoons, rods and reels, snatch hooks, snares, gigs, and crossbows as tools. As soon as a gator is caught, the hunter is required to quickly and humanely dispatch them with an explosive charge known as a "bang stick," fired at close range. Hunters were also limited to 30,000 acres of the refuge, which spans 144,00 acres, had limited hours, and were banned from using baited hooks. Most located their quarry by shining bright lights in the water, which revealed the red eyes of nearby gators.

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Several hunters expressed excitement about hunting in the Loxahatchee National Wildlife Refuge, as it being previously untouched might mean it holds larger gators, perhaps even one capable of breaking the state record length of 14 feet, 4 inches. Recently, hunters in Mississippi caught the heaviest gator on record in the state. However, some hunters commented they were disappointed by the prevalence of much smaller gators.

Hunting in the refuge was finally permitted after two years of public meetings and scientific studies of the refuge and protests by local media and animal rights groups. Officials state Loxahatchee has 2,000 to 3,000 gators in it, and the removal of less than two dozen gators would have no harmful effect.

Under criticism about the statewide gator hunts, Florida's Fish and Widlife Commission has stated they help manage the alligator population. Said Florida Fish and Wildlife Officer Amanda Phillips, "We don't want to get into that particular situation where we have an abundance of alligators. That wouldn't be good for the general public."

Review all the regulations for alligator hunting in

Would you ever go alligator hunting? What do you think of all the controversy from the wildlife refuge hunt? Let us know in the comments! If you're interested in the sport, see what else we've written about alligator hunting

Image via Wikimedia Commons

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Early Signs Point to Successful Gator Hunt in Florida Wildlife Refuge