View Full Version : Georgia's first 'gator hunt attracts 1,000

07-18-2003, 11:09 PM
Jul. 17, 2003

About 1,000 apply to hunt in Georgia's first alligator season

By ELLIOTT MINOR, The Associated Press

ALBANY, Ga. - Marine Staff Sgt. Timothy Lewis hunted quail, deer and duck growing up in the Northeast, but they don't have many gators in Pennsville, N.J.

Now, he and his two buddies hope to get a chance to wander out into swamps and streams in the dead of night to track down the primitive reptiles that can grow to 16 feet and weigh 800 pounds.

Following the lead of Louisiana, Texas, Florida and South Carolina, Georgia is holding its first ever alligator hunting season in September.

"Hopefully, it'll be exciting ... something we've never done before," said Lewis, who began hunting as a child in southern New Jersey.

Since his arrival two years ago at Marine Corps Logistics Base Albany, Lewis has found plenty of outdoor opportunities in rural southwestern Georgia, a haven for quail, deer and turkey hunters.

"I mostly hunt deer, quail and chase (wild) hogs for farmers," said the electronics technician who assists Marines around the world.

"Just being in the woods is something for me," he said. "Even if you don't get anything, you get a chance to think about things and be with your buddies - camaraderie. It's just a good time."

Lewis and two hunting buddies - Gunnery Sgt. Seth Tate of Cache, Okla., and Staff Sgt. Barry Quick of Rome, Ga. - fired off applications when the Georgia Department of Natural Resources announced the alligator season in May.

"It's going to be challenging," Tate said. "I'm not going to go after the biggest one, obviously, just being an amateur. I think I'll stick to ones just above the legal limit."

As of mid-July, the state had received 998 applications.

"There's a lot of interest in this," said DNR spokeswoman Lisa Doty.

Following the July 31 application deadline, the department will pick 180 hunters at random for the Sept. 13-28 hunt, which will include 13 southwestern and coastal counties and a wildlife management area near Valdosta.

Each hunter will pay $50 for a license and even those who come along to assist will have to have licenses. Hunters cannot take alligators that are less than 4 feet long.

Hunting the lizard-like reptiles won't be like shooting deer or birds from afar.

To find alligators, hunters may shine a beam into the darkness and watch for the eerie glow of their eyes. Then they will have to snare the alligators and pull them close to their boats before killing them.

"This one could be up close and personal," said wildlife biologist Greg Waters, who runs the state's nuisance alligator program. "It could be very exciting. My only concern is that ... people will be careful."

Because of state and federal conservation efforts since the 1960s, Georgia's alligator population has surged from almost none to an estimated 200,000.

"We're up to our ears in alligators," said Todd Holbrook, DNR's chief of game management.

Georgia wildlife officials hope the hunt will help reduce nuisance alligator complaints, while also providing a unique hunting experience.

Many people prefer to steer clear of alligators, even though the state has had only eight human attacks since 1980. None was fatal.

Georgia wildlife officials receive an average of 450 nuisance alligator complaints a year from people who discover them in swimming pools and carports, on golf courses or under houses. Nuisance alligators are killed or moved by the state's 13 licensed trappers.

DNR gets countless other complaints about alligators that don't hang around long enough to become a nuisance. People see them crossing a highway, or walking through a yard, especially during the mating season. Some of these have to be relocated by state workers.

"They're in drainage ditches, yards, garages, right in downtown Albany," said Capt. Ashley Darley, DNR's regional law-enforcement supervisor for southwestern Georgia.

Hunters who are picked can attend training sessions to help them prepare. They must use ropes, snares or harpoons to capture the animals, and then kill them by severing their spinal cords or shooting them with a hand gun or bang stick.

"Alligators are quite capable," Holbrook said. "You've got to deal with them with a lot of respect. It's a large animal and it makes its living preying on large animals."

Jim Thompson
07-19-2003, 11:50 AM
This should be interesting to say the least:)

1000 new gator hunters, all learning at the same time. Better count toes and fingers often.