Wildlife in Florida will be open to hunting today as a small group goes after their coveted prey, the American gator. This may seem to go against the very purpose of a wildlife preserve, but officials are saying that the number of alligators that may be lost from this practice is insignificant in comparison to the current population. Besides, history shows that opening up preserves for hunting is nothing new. President Theodore Roosevelt himself was known to hunt in areas dubbed for wildlife preservation as well.
The fact is, the swampy lands of Florida and other states make for an ideal breeding ground for alligators. People and alligators come across each other regularly and as a result there have been a number of attacks in southern states. Hunters may be taking pride in their practice because they believe it is a service to the community to decrease the population of alligators on the land. The summer is a particularly dangerous time because it is mating season and alligators move from place to place in their search for mates.
Hunters may be trying to protect people in the area, but a lot are looking to make a good sum of cash from alligator meat sales. In Florida, gator meat goes for about $18 a pound, while others may be looking to sell the hide of the wildlife. Tourists and natives alike have been known to enjoy a plate of alligator tails or ribs in the south. Other hunters are not after the taste of the meat, but the taste and thrill of the hunt.
The actual hunt of alligators is a heavily regulated practice, with laws against cruelty towards the animal in place. The legal way to catch this wildlife is to get a permit, of which 5,866 were issued this year for hunting alligators, with each hunter receiving two tags to regulate how much bounty can be collected. The equipment that is used to hunt is also regulated.
Alligators cross between water and land, and as a result, a little bit of fishing is required to capture the animal. It must first be hooked and then killed with an instrument called a bangstick. Unlike a usual firearm, a bangstick is a pole that fires a bullet into the animal’s head once the pole has made contact. The alligator’s mouth is taped shot before any further work is done.
The process is seen as cruel to those who advocate for animal rights, especially with the added detail that the alligator might still be conscious after being shot. Despite this fact, it is deemed the legal way to hunt for alligators. The number of alligator hunters has risen into the thousands in the past decade. Some attribute this rise in hunters to the popularity of certain hunting shows like Swamp People, in which a team goes out and hunts for alligators and crocodiles to earn their wages.
Popularity of alligator hunting shows might be an influence for the surge seen in the south, but there has always been conflict between humans and the animal. Florida goes into its wildlife hunting period knowing that while the human population may be growing, so is the gator population. Every day the two live in the same areas, and each poses a threat to the other.
By Kamille Dawkins