The Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission (FWC) is floating the idea of allowing recreational gator hunters more time afield to tag alligators, which the state says are healthy and abundant. The estimated population stands at 1.3 million.
The FWC proposal—which is in the public-input stage—would increase recreational gator hunting hours from the current 17 hours per day to 24 hours per day in most areas of the state. The state-sold recreational alligator harvest tags would allow seven more hours of hunting daily, from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., effectively making daylight hunting of gators available to license holders.
“Night hunting is most effective in locating and getting a big gator for recreational hunters, but a lot of folks can’t spend all night looking for a gator, then get up and go to work in the morning,” says Jacksonville’s Chad Lairsey, 33, a Florida nuisance alligator trapper for five years. “I always hunt nuisance gators during the day because its best for homeowners who have a gator issue and want a big one removed from near their residence. It’s easiest to locate gators at night, but it’s more dangerous than in the daytime, and not convenient for residents who want state help removing them alive.”
Lairsey understands why some hunters and gator outfitters who have recreational hunting tags would want to get gators during the day for safety, and for less grueling all-night adventures. He added that hunters with recreational tags are seeking the biggest alligator possible, and a lot of them don’t fill tags unless they locate a big one 6 to 8 feet long or even bigger.
“I know lots of hunters and guides who don’t even fill their alligator tags because they didn’t locate a gator big enough to warrant harvesting,” says Lairsey. “So all-day gator hunting won’t have much effect on the state gator population.”
Lairsey says that 24-hour hunting may cause bigger, older gators to be more elusive than they were 10 or 20 years ago. But it likely will financially benefit the state, businesses and guides.
“Changing the law to allow 24-hour hunting would aid recreational hunters so they’d have more access to the resource, and believe me, we have plenty of alligators in Florida,” Lairsey states.