Every summer since 1988, the state of Florida has opened many of its lakes, rivers and swamps to a limited-time public alligator hunt. This year’s hunt began Aug. 15 and continues through Sept. 12.
Once listed as an endangered species and protected from harvest, the American alligator has bounced back to sustainable levels that can withstand hunting, according to Steve Stiegler, a biologist with the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission’s alligator management program.
Though gators as small as 18 inches can be legally bagged, few hunters would consider it worth the effort. Most aim for something closer to the Florida record of 14 feet, 5/8 inches, taken in 1997 at Lake Monroe in Seminole County.
Bagging a gator isn’t as easy as it might seem. Hunters are not allowed to use guns to kill gators. Instead, they may use pole spears, bow-and-arrow, or rod-and-reel to catch the animal, then use a bang-stick — a pole with an explosive charge on the end — to dispatch it at point-blank range before bringing it into a boat.