FLORIDA CITY, Fla.— The Everglades region of South Florida have a lot to offer, depending on what it is that you are looking to do. One thing you could probably never imagine to do is go alligator hunting.
Well, if you thought that was impossible you were wrong.
In 2000, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission identified the development of a county-based alligator harvest program. They setup the harvest units in counties around the state.
While this activity is permitted in some areas of South Florida, it is not permitted wthin the boundaries of Everglades National Park.
The Everglades area of western Miami-Dade County and eastern Collier County is one of the most popular spots to go alligator hunting in South Florida.
“It is where you can find the most alligators and probably with the most ease,” according to Gabriel Fontela, an avid hunter.
Fontela has been participating in the alligator hunt for the past two years with his father. Each year they each come out with two alligators.
“Even if I didn’t catch any alligators I would still do it. The thrill of the hunt makes it completely worth it,” said Fontela.
The annual alligator hunt takes place from Aug. 15 through Nov. 1. And comes with plenty of rules and regulations.
Any person at least 18-years old by Aug. 15 of the application year and who has not been convicted of violating Florida statutes or any commission rules relating to the illegal taking of any crocodile species for a period of five years, or for 10 years if the conviction involved taking an endangered crocodile, can participate in the hunt.
In order to participate in the hunt, however, you must apply for permits.
Applicants must submit payment for an alligator trapping license plus $20 for two hide validation tags or provide proof of a valid alligator trapping license that is valid through Nov. 1.
The cost of the alligator trapping license is $252 for residents of the state and $1,002 for nonresidents. Hunters can obtain additional permits after purchasing an alligator trapping license. The cost for additional permits is $62 for two hide validation tags and is not refundable.
Once you have received the permits and licenses needed to participate in the alligator hunt, you are assigned a specific period in which you are able to hunt.
Each hunter is assigned to one of four periods. The periods are assigned based on availability and the hunter’s preference on the application. The harvest permit will specify the harvest period.
The harvest periods are from one hour before sunset through one hour after sunset.
Period one is Aug. 15-22, period two is Aug. 22-29, period three is from Aug. 29 to Sept. 5, and period four is from Sept. 5 through Sept. 12.
All participants also will be allowed to trap alligators from Sept. 12 through Nov. 1.
If hunters have any unused tags, they may use them during this time. The hours to hunt during this period are the same as the other periods.
Each permit allows a hunter to take only two alligators. If additional permits are available, then the hunter may apply for an additional permit.
However, a person cannot give his/her permit to another person to use. The permit to trap an alligator may only be used by the person who applied for it.
There are different methods to hunting the alligators.
According to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, participants may take alligators using hand held snares, harpoons, gigs, and snatch hooks; manually-operated spears, spear guns, crossbows and bows with projectiles attached to a restraining line; and baited, wooden pegs less than two inches in length attached to a hand-held restraining line.
“I usually use a crossbow to go gator hunting,” said Gabriel’s father, Albert Fontela.
The use of baited hooks, gig-equipped bang sticks, or firearms for taking alligators is prohibited.
An exception is made permitting bang sticks to be used for taking alligators attached to a restraining line.
Some people get out to the harvest units by boat. The use of airboats to get to the harvest units depends on whether the local or regional government allows it in different waterways.
In order to be certain as to whether boats can be used contact the appropriate city, county, or water management district in the county where you are permitted and ask about the specific area that you would like to hunt.
For the most part, if you receive a countywide alligator harvest permit, you can hunt on any area that you can legally access in a specified county.
Privately owned lands are prohibited alligator hunting ground, unless of course you have received permission of the landowner.
The most important thing to remember if you decide to go alligator hunting is to follow the rules and regulations the FWC places on the hunts and use precaution when handling the animals.