History of Alligator Hunting in the Mobile-Tensaw Delta

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alligatorThe summer months between the end of turkey season and the beginning of dove season can be extremely long for hunters in south Alabama. In August 2006, that changed when the first alligator season was initiated in Alabama. Registration for the upcoming season is scheduled to begin in early June. Prospective hunters should checkwww.outdooralabama.com for registration details.

The American alligator has long inhabited the swamps of the Mobile-Tensaw Delta. Due to loss of habitat and unregulated market hunting, alligators were reduced to low numbers by the early 1900s. Thanks to the efforts of conservationists and state wildlife agencies, alligators were listed as endangered in 1967. This status, combined with proactive management and law enforcement efforts by wildlife professionals, allowed alligator populations to rebound, and they now flourish over most of their historic range.

Alligator populations increased to the point that their protected status was down listed in 1987, allowing greater flexibility to manage populations. Currently, the American alligator is federally classified as “threatened due to similarity of appearance” to other endangered and threatened crocodilians. This provides federal protection for alligators but allows state-approved management and control programs.  Regulated hunting provides one opportunity to help manage alligator populations.urban-myth-alligator2

In 2006, 50 alligator tags were offered through a random selection system for Alabama residents to hunt in the Mobile-Tensaw Delta. The hunt area was restricted to the Delta south of I-65 and north of the causeway and held during seven consecutive nights. During the first season, 40 of the 50 issued tags were filled, with the largest alligator being 12’4” and weighing 461 pounds. In 2007, tags were increased to 100 in the Delta and the hunt was held for three consecutive nights on two separate weekends. A total of 84 alligators were harvested with the largest being 12’10” and weighing 641 pounds. In 2008, tags were again increased from 100 to 125 in the Delta and the hunt remained at three consecutive nights on two separate weekends. The hunt area also increased to include all public waters of the Delta north to the Clarke and Monroe County line. A total of 72 alligators were harvested with the largest being 12’5” and weighing 540 pounds.

From 2009-2012, tags remained at 125. In 2009, a total of 81 were filled; the largest was 13’5” and weighed 701 pounds. In 2010, a total of 80 were filled; the largest was 13’4” and weighed 742 pounds. In 2011, a total of 78 were filled; the largest was 12’8” and weighed 593 pounds. In 2011, a total of 80 were filled; the largest was 13’3” and weighed 665 pounds.

Alligator Hunt 463To date, a total of 515 alligators have been harvested in the Delta. This hunt has been a great success story in Alabama, and alligator hunting has expanded to additional parts of the state. Through wise utilization and proper management, Alabama’s alligator population remains healthy while at the same time allowing for the sustainable use of a valuable renewable natural resource.

For more information contact Chris Nix, Wildlife Biologist, Alabama Division of Wildlife and Freshwater Fisheries, 30571 Five Rivers Blvd., Spanish Fort, AL 36527; phone 251-626-5474.

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 Lands, State Parks, and Wildlife and Freshwater Fisheries. To learn more about ADCNR visit www.outdooralabama.com.

Chris Nix, Wildlife Biologist, Alabama Division of Wildlife and Freshwater Fisheries

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