When Gov. Bob Riley announced Alabama’s first-ever regulated alligator hunting season would take place August 18-24, 2006 in the Mobile Delta, you could hear a splash of excitement from hunters who wanted to participate.
The Alabama Department of Conservation & Natural Resources hosted the weeklong regulated hunt in which 46 hunters participated. The 40 harvested alligators ranged in size and weight from 7’7” to 12’4” in length and from 77 to 461 pounds at weigh-in. The 46 hunters were randomly chosen by computer from nearly 1,000 online registrants. Each was required to complete the Alligator Training Course provided by Wildlife and Freshwater Fisheries Division personnel. Each hunter was allowed to harvest one alligator six feet in length or longer. Hunters traveled from all over the state to participate in the first-ever regulated alligator hunt.
“We are pleased with the successful outcome of this first regulated alligator hunt,” said Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources Commissioner Barnett Lawley. “Harvesting 40 alligators is a good start toward controlling Alabama’s alligator population. Next, the Conservation Advisory Board will utilize information gathered from this hunt to determine where and when any future hunts may take place.”
Wildlife biologists are analyzing harvest data. Wildlife & Freshwater Fisheries Division Director Corky Pugh said, “The alligator hunt is the result of a true conservation story. The fact that 40 out of 46 hunters harvested an alligator is a strong indication of the high population of these reptiles in our state. However, it was not easy. To be successful, hunters had to exhibit much patience and skill.” Pugh went on to say that excellent planning and leadership by local staff was the major factor in the hunt’s success and safety.
The story of the American alligator is one of drastic decline followed by full recovery of the species. It is a story of cooperation between Alabama DCNR and the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service that led to one of the most prominent success stories in the nation's endangered species program. In the early 20th century, the American alligator was threatened with extinction due in large part to unregulated alligator harvesting throughout the South. Nearly 70 years ago, the Conservation Department initiated steps to protect the alligator population. In 1938, Alabama was the first state to protect alligators by outlawing alligator harvests. Other states soon followed and in 1967 the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service placed the American alligator on the Endangered Species list. By 1987, the species was removed from the Endangered Species list and the alligator population has continued to increase.
The American alligator (Alligator mississippiensis) is the largest reptile in North America. A fully mature alligator may grow to 14’ in length and weigh as much as 1,000 pounds.
The Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources promotes wise stewardship, management and enjoyment of Alabama’s natural resources through five divisions: Marine Police, Marine Resources, State Parks, State Lands, and Wildlife and Freshwater Fisheries. To learn more about ADCNR visit www.outdooralabama.com.