Inside Florida's Alligator Hunting Season – Motherboard
This story is part of OUTER LIMITS, a Motherboard series about people, technology, and going outside. Let us be your guide.
Florida’s alligator hunting season starts in August and runs through early November. This year, 6,000 permits were awarded to hunters across the state. Last year, they captured 7,145 gators.
There are now around 1.3 million alligators in Florida, and they are no longer protected as an endangered species like they were in the 1970s. Part of the hunting program is geared toward “nuisance” alligators, which can appear in neighborhoods and sometimes attack people, but animal rights protestors still organize regularly in opposition to the hunts.
Alligator hunters like Matt Magner usually have tags that allow them to hunt in specific areas, like the stormwater treatment areas (STAs) of reservoirs. They use hooks and bait to get the gators, and then can choose to keep their kill or sell it for food processing, skins, or heads.
“They have the same instincts just like a deer and hog,” said Magner, who has been hunting alligators for nine years. “They’re a top predator, the only thing they’re scared about are other gators. They’re very intelligent.”
I went alligator hunting with Magner and his friends near Lake Okeechobee as they tried to catch alligators before the end of the season.
The hunters drive alongside a Stormwater Treatment Area canal in South Bay. Stormwater Treatment Areas (STAs) are used to catch the outflow from Lake Okeechobee, and have become some of the most popular places for alligators to reside in Florida.
Image: Zak Bennett
Magner, who is from Lake Worth, spots an alligator and hurriedly walks toward the canal bank while preparing his fishing pole to cast out. Alligator hunters use fishing poles and hooks to initially lure alligators closer to the canal