Alligator hunters in Arkansas harvested 161 alligators over two weekends this year, falling just short of last year’s record-breaking 174 alligators.
Biologists with the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission said all private land tags were filled and only “a few” public land tags went unfilled. They attributed the high level of take on private land to landowners being prepared when the season opened.
“This was the second year of the new private land quota system, and it was the second time in a row that the private land zones reached their quota by the end of the opening weekend,” said Mark Barbee, AGFC wildlife assistant regional supervisor. “I imagine quite a few of the gators taken on private land are landowners wanting to remove an alligator for nuisance purposes, so they’re ready that first weekend and have the animal pretty well patterned by the time the hunt begins.”
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On public land, Barbee believes some hunters failed to fill all their tags because they were waiting for a big gator but ran out of time.
“Some people in the public land hunts hold out a little for a bigger gator,” Barbee said. “With only two weekends to seal the deal, some of those hunters don’t find a gator they want to take or wait too late to go back and get one of the smaller alligators.”
Legal alligator hunting is a relatively new phenomenon in Arkansas. The species was listed as federally endangered in 1973, but like many other game species, the efforts of hunters and conservationists led to its rebound.
Today, many healthy populations exist throughout the southwest. In Arkansas, 2,800 alligators were relocated to the southern portions of the state between 1972 and 1984. Those reptiles formed the basis for today’s populations, and hunting began in 2007 with an eye towards conserving the species.
Barbee related one incident that he believes demonstrates the ethical mindset of Arkansas alligator hunters.
“We had one incident where a hunter harpooned an alligator, but it submerged and hung up underneath a bunch of logs and limbs,” Barbee explained. “The hunter thought he had lost it, but it floated to the surface a couple of days later. They were able to recover the head for taxidermy and check the gator, but the meat and skin had already begun to decompose.”
“I really appreciate them calling and checking the animal even if they didn’t get to use it. It’s a great example of the sportsmanship and ethics we see in our hunters here in Arkansas,” he concluded.
In total, 15 alligators were harvested on public land and 146 on private land.