The 80 mile stretch of I-75 that crosses the state from Naples going into Ft. Lauderdale is known as Alligator Alley. On Monday, a 12-foot gator made the namesake literal.

Commission Approves FWC’s Proposed Rule Changes For Florida Alligator Harvest Program

At the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission’s (FWC) March 2022 meeting, Commissioners approved proposed rule amendments related to the statewide alligator harvest program.

The proposed improvements would allow program participants an additional 7 hours a day of hunting opportunity and add airbows with a tethered arrow as a legal method of take. These proposals would provide greater flexibility for hunt participants while continuing the management of Florida’s alligator resource for sustainability.

The additional hunting hours would eliminate concerns about fully landing an alligator before the current 10 a.m. ending time and provide more flexibility when scheduling hunting trips.

Currently, hunting hours during the statewide recreational alligator hunting season are 5 p.m. to 10 a.m. Those areas that currently limit alligator hunting hours are likely to continue with those restrictions if this proposal is approved as a final rule.

Adding precharged pneumatic airbows to the legal methods of take for the statewide alligator harvest provides a new effective way to initially secure a line to the animal to safely gain control of it. The arrow must be attached to a restraining line that is tethered to the airbow or boat.

Airbow use would also benefit hunters with mobility challenges and youth or smaller-framed hunters. Airbows weren’t commercially available when the statewide alligator harvest methods were last updated.

These proposed changes were supported by the Alligator Management Program’s technical assistance group and FWC’s alligator management standing team. In addition, the FWC is seeking input on proposed changes throughout the rulemaking process. Stakeholders were invited to provide input on the proposals through an in-person workshop, webinars, an online poll for alligator hunters, an online commenting tool, targeted mail-out surveys for lakeside residents, and email blasts.

Based on the results of this feedback, stakeholders largely support the proposed rule amendments.

Commissioners will consider the proposed rule changes for final adoption at their May 2022 meeting. If approved as final rules in May 2022, they would take effect in time for the upcoming 2022 statewide alligator harvest season.

Alligators are a conservation success story in Florida. The state’s alligator population, which was included on the original Federal Endangered Species List in 1967, is now estimated at 1.3 million alligators of every size. The population has been stable for many years and continues to remain healthy. 

Since 1988, Florida’s statewide alligator harvest has been nationally and internationally recognized as a model program for the sustainable use of a renewable natural resource. Each year, alligator management units are established with harvest quotas that provide recreational opportunities for people from Florida and beyond and maintain alligator populations at targeted levels.

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