Mississippi Wildlife, Fisheries, and Parks recently confirmed that two hunters harvested the largest female alligator ever taken in the Magnolia State. And the agency is learning some interesting things about wild gators from the big reptile.
According to the MDWFP, Jim and Richie Denson were hunting the Pearl River near Ross Barnett Reservoir when they harvested a female alligator measuring 10 feet, 2 inches in length. That breaks the state's previous record for a female alligator, but what makes this harvest so interesting to state biologists is the fact that this was a known alligator. MDWFP had previously captured and tagged this alligator back in 2009 during a research project. She was tagged under the designation "Yellow 410."
Amazingly, the alligator was harvested by the hunters only 100 yards from where she was first captured and tagged. She also measured 10 feet, 2 inches during that first capture. This isn't as surprising as you may think. The MDWFP notes that previous studies have shown female alligators grow much slower than the males.
"There are known-age female alligators that have been in captivity for over 35 years in a controlled environment and have only grown to about eight feet long," MDWFP Alligator Program Coordinator Ricky Flynt said in a press release. "We have no idea how old Yellow 410 was when it was captured and tagged in 2009, but we do know that over the next 14 years it did not grow even one inch."
Because growth rates for female alligators have been shown to be as little as two inches a year, Flynt believes there is a chance Yellow 410 was somewhere from 75 to 100 years old. Flynt notes that this type of data is exactly what biologists with the MDWFP are hoping to capture every time they tag an alligator.
"Each recapture provides us with interesting data that no other states are obtaining. I am very proud of what we are learning," Flynt said in the release. "This is just another example of the value of hunters and hunting to wildlife biologists and wildlife conservation. Much of what biologists know about many species across the world came from similar mark-recapture projects involving hunter harvest data."
It will likely be a very long time before anyone breaks this new record for a female alligator in Mississippi. The MDWFP notes that this latest harvest ties a previous world record from Florida in length. The only larger female alligator out there is a 10-foot, 6.75-inch specimen harvested in Florida last year.
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