A record number of applicants sought permits for alligator hunting this year, though they had to wait an extra day to find out if they won a lottery for the permits.
The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission said Thursday that 6,566 permits were issued from 19,358 applications submitted in a first round of permitting.
The commission was initially scheduled to announce the lottery winners on Wednesday but sent out a message to applicants saying, “We received a record number of applications this year — over 19,000 — and the lottery process is taking longer than expected.” The processing was completed Thursday, a day before a second round of applications was scheduled to start.
The agency has seen the number of applications in the first round grow from 12,902 in 2018 to 16,637 in 2019 and 18,160 in 2021.
“We cannot speculate on the reasons behind the increase in the number of applications submitted,” agency spokeswoman Tammy Sapp said in an email Thursday.
The Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission this month approved a rule change that will extend what had largely been nighttime hunting — between 5 p.m. and 10 a.m. — to 24 hours when the hunt gets underway in August.
Supporters said the change will help hunters better schedule trips and potentially allow more young and senior hunters to participate, as they might be more comfortable hunting during the day.
The hunt manages an estimated 1.3 million alligators in the state. People whose applications are drawn in the lottery must pay for an alligator trapping license, receive an area-specific harvest permit and tags authorizing the harvesting of two alligators.
The state estimates about 7,500 alligators are killed annually during the hunting period, which runs from Aug. 15 to Nov. 1.