It’s gator-huntin’ season, and within the very first day, Mississippi hunters caught and killed two gators that surpassed the previous state record in weight. The first gator totaled a weight of 723.5 pounds, beating the state record by 26 pounds. Just an hour later, another gator was caught weighing in at 727 pounds–the new official state record. Measuring at 13 feet and 4.5 inches, the hunters managed to kill the gator with merely a crossbow.
“He broke all the lines we could put in him. Finally put a snare on him and got him up high enough and put a shot on him. All in all probably took us four and a half hours to catch him from the first time we saw him,” explained the hunter.
The largest weight of an alligator ever recorded was found in 1989 in Gainesville, Florida, tipping the scale at 1043 pounds.
Absolutely capable of killing a human being, Alligators tend not to attack humans unless provoked because they simply do not see them as a natural source of prey. There have only been 275 documented human-attacks by alligators since 1948 in the state of Florida, which is the third-most populated state with gators. Louisiana ranks as first most-populated with up to 2 million gators, followed by Florida with approximately 1.5 million, and Georgia comes in third place with up to 400,000.
History, has shown, however, that gator attacks have increased, particularly in the last decade, perhaps due to television shows like “Swamp Monsters” promoting the hunting and interacting with the gator population. From 2001 to 2007, 12 people in Florida were killed by alligators, but there were only a total of 9 documented deaths due to alligator attacks between 1970 and 1990.
Another explanation for the rise in human attacks by gators is the fact that the expansion of the human population means houses are being built closer to, or practically in, the natural gator habitat; making close encounters much more likely.
Alligator farming is another gator-centered activity that has been on the rise. Throughout the states of Louisiana, Texas, Florida, and Georgia, over 45,000 hides are collected due to this growing industry. The price for one hide can sell for around $300 when measuring in a length of approximately 6 or 7 feet long. The meat of an alligator is also widely sought, with over 300,000 pounds of gator meat produced and sold each year.
A question remains, however: is the increase and popularity of gator-hunting putting the species at risk for endangerment? Back in 1967, alligators were believed to be in danger of extinction, and eventually protected by the Endangered Species Act implemented in 1973. With great effort by the United States Fish and Wildlife Service, and various wildlife protection agencies throughout the southern states, where the gator is populated, the species was able to make a fruitful recovery, and was removed the endangered species list by 1987. Today, through hunting regulations, the species is currently safe in terms of population, but will always be at in danger of illegal hunting and trafficking.
While gator hunting is exciting, and undoubtedly entertaining for many through national television, one can only hope those hunting this enormous and beautiful species can contain themselves in an effort to ensure their conservation and continued existence.
By Ginger Vieira