(AP) – Great weather, high water and increasing expertise made for a good alligator season in Mississippi’s public waters, says state alligator program coordinator Ricky Flynt.
Hunters took 918 alligators from Mississippi’s public waters thisyear, up 153 from last year’s harvest, the Mississippi Department of Wildlife,Fisheries and Parks said. Paul Edwards of Okolona and five others tied a staterecord by catching a 10-foot-long (3-meter-long) female.
“Water levels and weather are the single largest benefits tohunter effort and success,” Flynt wrote in an email Monday. Higher watermakes most river systems easier to navigate, he said, “and the weather wasabsolutely perfect for the entire 10-day season.”
He said he also thinks experience gained since the state’s firstseason in 2005 has made hunters better at finding and catching alligators.
The state record is 982 harvested in 2015, when 997 permit holdersand their guests went out on the water and 693 groups brought home at least onealligator. About three-quarters of this year’s 816 groups harvested a gator ortwo.
The time needed to find and harvest an alligator averaged nearly10½ hours in 2015 but less than 8 hours this year, according to data providedby Flynt.
The number of alligators harvested is far less than the numbercaught. Hunters caught and released 2,147 alligators in 2015, 1,671 last yearand 2,018 this year.
Permit holders have a season limit of two alligators. To ensure agood mix of younger animals and big old gators, both must be at least 4 feet(1.2 meters) long, and only one may be more than 7 feet (2 meters) long.
“Hunters target larger alligators as a ‘trophy’ and alsotarget alligators that are slightly under 7 feet long due to the bag limitparameters. Most hunters capture multiple alligators each year but will releasemany until they capture one or two that meet their harvest expectations,”Flynt wrote.
Bait and artificial lures are illegal in Mississippi. Hunters cansnag alligators with weighted triple hooks, use a snare pole to get a loop ofrope around an animal’s neck, or shoot them with either a harpoon that has adetachable point or an arrow equipped with a fish point.
This year, 3,065 hunters participated, including 816 permitholders. The department said 617 permit holders and their friends caught atleast one alligator this year.
The 10-day public harvest ended Sept. 9. The private lands season,which has some different rules and requires state harvest vouchers, continuesuntil 6 a.m. Sept. 23. Far fewer alligators are generally taken on privatelands – the four-year total from 2014 through 2017 was 411.