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Saturday, Sep 20, 2014
Politics

No more small, stuffed, oddly posed gators under new rules


Published:   |   Updated: April 17, 2014 at 06:39 PM

in season

The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission preliminarily approved a set of rules, the latest updating of the state’s alligator regulations, as part of the Alligator Management Program.

Currently, trapping is permitted 5 p.m. till 10 a.m. during the state’s 11-week alligator season. It lasts Aug. 15 to Nov. 1.

next three-day meeting June 17-19 in Fort Myers.

“These changes are not about populations,” said Harry Dutton, the Alligator Management Program’s coordinator. “They’re just, for lack of a better term, administrative shuffling. They’re benign.”

The suggestion to add 24-hour hunting during season came from commissioners themselves, however.

The move also would align Florida with neighbor state Georgia, which allows 24-hour hunting, added commission chair Richard Corbett.

There are 12 state laws, 11 of which were first passed in the late 1980s, that cover alligator management, Dutton said. They have been largely unchanged since then.

With decades of experience in managing alligators, the commission in 2011 directed staff members to review the laws.

After taking a look, staffers decided some provisions in the statutes needed to be put in administrative rules, Dutton said.

They used an online poll, which 1,300 people took part in, and the current proposals resulted.

Commission records show 6,709 alligators, ranging in size from 2-14 feet, were caught statewide in 2012 during the annual hunt.

That includes 59 in Collier County and five in Hillsborough County, according to the commission’s alligator harvest data.

Ten years before, a total of 2,164 alligators were harvested statewide. The numbers don’t include “nuisance” alligators that were trapped; in 2012, that number was 7,975.

Alligators are considered a nuisance when they’re at least four feet long and “pose a threat to people, pets or property,” according to the commission’s website.

Nuisance-alligator trappers work under contract with the state and get to keep their catch. It’s usually killed for its hide and meat but may be sold alive to an alligator farm, animal exhibit or zoo.

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♦ Clarifying that only properly tagged alligator hides can be bought.

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♦ That could mean human poses, including standing upright or waving.

“It includes anything that an alligator can’t or won’t do,” Dutton said. “It’s meant to address the curio shop stuff.”

jrosica@tampatrib.com

(850) 765-0807

Twitter: @jlrosicaTBO

Hunting alligators

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service lists American alligators as a protected species but allows state-approved management and control programs.

Alligators can be legally taken only by individuals with proper licenses and permits.

Floridians and non-residents who are at least 18 years old can take up to 2 alligators per permit. Resident permits cost $272 and those from out-of-state are charged $1,022.

Permits are issued through a random drawing. A Florida hunting license is not required to participate in the statewide alligator hunt.

For applications and more information, visit the MyFWC.com/alligator.

Source: Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission

Alligator hunting history

1944: Alligator hunting in Florida is first regulated by the new Florida Game and Fresh Water Fish Commission. Only alligators four feet and larger can be legally harvested.

1961: Florida prohibits the hunting of alligators after the 1961 season because of declining numbers.

1967: The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service classifies the American alligator as an endangered species.

1977: Alligators are reclassified from endangered to threatened in Florida.

1979: Sale of alligator meat is authorized by the federal government and skins can be legally exported.

1988: Florida begins statewide alligator harvest program.

Source: Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission

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