Alligator season has just started in the state of Florida, and already people have gathered to protest the killing of the gators.
Gator hunters in Florida’s Arthur R. Marshall Loxahatchee National Wildlife Refuge battled both poor weather and protestors on Friday night as they participated in the first alligator hunt of the season.
The waters that the hunters looked for alligators in had never been hunted in before. They are thought to contain a number of gators, including ones of considerable size.
“They’ve never been hunted before. There’s a state record in here somewhere,” said Lyle Sisson, an experienced gator hunter from West Palm Beach. “I want one that I look at him and say, ‘Oh my God.’ It’s an adrenaline rush for sure.”
However, not everyone shared Sisson’s enthusiasm. Around a dozen protestors from the Animal Rights Foundation of Florida showed up to protest the hunting. The animal rights activists held up various signs, saying things like – “Ban Gator Hunt” and “No Hunting in a Refuge.”
“I think it’s wrong to go into the animal’s natural habitat and kill it, stab it, harpoon it and shoot it with a bang stick,” said The Animal Rights Foundation’s communications director Don Anthony.
Only 11 hunters are approved to hunt in the almost 150,000 acre swamp. They were chosen from a lottery of around 1,200 applicants, and only have permission to kill two gators each.
The hunters are only allowed to use harpoons, rod-and-reels, snares, gigs and crossbows to catch the alligators. They then must immediately kill the animal with a bang stick.
The purpose of the hunt is not to prevent an overpopulation of the gators, noted the U.S. Fish and Wildlife, but is instead more about having fun.
“We spent 12 years studying the alligator population and decided we had enough alligators to have a limited harvest without affecting the population,” said Rolf Olson, manager at Loxahatchee National Wildlife Refuge.