Outdoors

Want to hunt alligators in Mississippi? Here's what you have to do.

Applying for a permit for Mississippi's alligator season on public waterways starts June 1, but if you want to catch one, you must have a state permit awarded through a lottery process.
Applying for a permit for Mississippi's alligator season on public waterways starts June 1, but if you want to catch one, you must have a state permit awarded through a lottery process. Mississippi Department of Wildlife, Fisheries and Parks

It's not for the faint at heart, but if you want to be an alligator hunter, you can soon apply for a permit for Mississippi's 2018 alligator season along public waterways.

The permitting process starts Friday, making the fast-moving reptiles with powerful jaws, muscular tails and armor-plated bodies fair game for hunting, provided you win a permit and follow state law.

Applications are being accepted online starting Friday through June 7 on the Mississippi Department of Wildlife, Fisheries & Parks' website. Or you can apply anywhere that sells state hunting and fishing licenses.

Permits are awarded through a lottery process.

The 10-day season starts Aug. 31 and ends Sept. 10.

To apply, you must be 16 or older and must have one of these valid licenses: state sportsman, all-game, small game, apprentice sportsman, apprentice all-game, senior exempt, disabled exempt or lifetime.

There's a $2.39 processing fee for applications. If you win a permit, your bag limit is two alligators at least 4 feet long. Only one of them can be longer than 7 feet.

The state will issue 930 permits valid in seven hunting zones. The first drawing for permits will be held June 13.

Those selected will be notified by email with a link to buy their permit within 48 hours. Those selected in the lottery must pay a $25 alligator hunting license and an alligator hunting possession permit for $200 in South Mississippi.

After the purchase deadline, any permits not purchased will be up for grabs in a second drawing, the MDWFP website says. The second drawing will be June 25.

About those gators

Alligators are plentiful in the southern two-thirds of the state. On average, male gators can weigh about 500 pounds and stretch up to 15 feet.

Gator ranches have become a popular attraction in Southern states, such as the Gulf Coast Gator Ranch and Tours in Moss Point.

Alligators have been around more than 150 million years. They existed with dinosaurs. They became an endangered species in the early 20th century, but state regulations put in place have allowed the alligator population to increase.

Though alligators usually avoid humans, they are sometimes found near farm ponds, ditches along roads or highway, or parking lots, yards and swimming pools, said Ricky Flynt, the state's alligator program coordinator.

Alligators are not hunters or gatherers when it comes time to eat, says discoverymindblown.com. Alligators are lurkers, waiting for something edible to pass near by. They can lunge at an incredible speed.

They can run about 11 mph, swim about 20 mph and their jaws can exert up to 2,000 pounds per square inch. It takes them about 30 minutes to get worn out, and several hours to build up their strength again.

Alligators show up in unlikely places. Such was the case at a nursing school in Natchez in May. Students saw what they thought was a dead 9-foot-6 alligator behind bushes. The alligator sprang to life when wildlife officers tried to put rope around it to drag it off.

So you've bagged a gator. Now what?

The MDWFP website lists the only eligible places for meat processing and sites that take alligator carcasses and buy hides.

"Alligators legally harvested and properly tagged by permitted alligator hunters may only be sold to a licensed state agent alligator trapper, a person who possesses a state fur dealer's license or a person who is licensed to purchase alligators in another state," the state agency's website says.

A new state alligator record was set Aug. 28, 2017, when hunters took a 14-foot, 3/4-inch gator near Natchez. The alligator weighed 766.5 pounds,according to the MDWFP.

A total of 741 alligators were harvested around the state last year.

Hunters also can qualify to hunt alligator on designated private lands. Applications for hunting on private lands must be mailed with documents to the state office by July 1.

The MDWFP also offers training in hunting alligators. The training could be life-saving. An alligator typically grabs its food and submerges in water until the food — whether fish, fowl or human — has drowned.

The wildlife department says it's dangerous for the public to capture and remove or kill an alligator or to get closer than 30 feet way. Don't be deceived by the double sets of eyes. They use stealth and a vice-like grip to catch their prey.

Robin Fitzgerald, 228-896-2307, @robincrimenews
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