Tampa class on gator hunting draws protesters
The Associated Press
August 3, 2003
TAMPA -- About 20 protesters waved signs and shouted through bullhorns outside a state-sponsored alligator hunting class where dozens of people learned how to catch, harvest and process the reptiles.
"If most Floridians knew the suffering these animals go through when they are hunted and killed, I think they would be outraged,'' said Fred Ellis, outreach coordinator for the Fort Lauderdale-based Animals Rights Foundation of Florida.
Bart Siegel, a Temple Terrace man who attended the seminar on Saturday, has hunted alligators for about three years. He said he supports the harvesting because he knows the money he spends on his permit pays for future conservation efforts.
"I live on the Hillsborough River, and I'm not thrilled that a 12-foot gator lives in that river and suns himself on my dock,'' Siegel said, adding that alligators become aggressive and dangerous when they encroach on human habitats.
The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission will hold six seminars around the state this month like the one Saturday, commission spokesman Gary Morse said. The annual alligator hunting season runs from Sept. 1 through Oct. 8.
Alligator hunters in Florida must apply for a $270 permit. The number of permits issued varies each year depending on the alligator population and are issued by lottery. The state hasn't decided how many permits it will issue this year.
Morse said alligator harvesting season helps conservation officials get a better idea of where alligators live and how healthy they are. Wildlife Sgt. Pam Hoback said hunting is necessary to control the population.
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