By DAVID RAINER

Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources

If you didn’t get your Conservation ID during the 2016-2017 hunting seasons, the number is required for those who wish to apply for an alligator tag in this summer’s Alligator Limited Quota Hunt.

Registration is underway through 8 a.m. (CDT) July 11 to be eligible for the computer-generated, random drawing.

The application process started on June 2, but technical difficulties had to be resolved before the process could resume.

If you tried to register on June 2, please log in to https://publichunts.dcnr.alabama.gov/public and verify your 2017 alligator season  registration is listed. If your 2017 hunt registration is not on the list, you will need to re-register. If your registration is listed, but you did not receive a receipt or confirmation number, you need to send an email to support@alabamainteractive.org. Put Alligator Hunt Registration Confirmation in the subject line of the email. In the email body, include your full name and the following statement: I completed my Alligator Hunt Registration online and did not receive a receipt or confirmation number and would like to request a copy of both.

Back to the Conservation ID, which will be required of all hunting-license holders for the 2017-2018 season, the Alabama Wildlife and Freshwater Fisheries (WFF) Division makes it as easy as possible to acquire the Conservation ID by providing a link on the alligator registration page at www.outdooralabama.com/registration-instructions.

Chris Nix, WFF’s Alligator Program Coordinator, said potential applicants won’t be able to proceed in the process until the Conservation ID is issued.

“The reason for the Conservation ID is there have been some issues in the past trying to track people, primarily with their points, by just having their driver’s license number,” Nix said. “I remember one person in particular last year. He had a lifetime hunting license as a resident of Alabama. Then he moved to Mississippi. He got a different driver’s license when he moved to Mississippi. He was doing everything he was supposed to as far as registering every year, but when he changed driver’s license numbers, the system did not track him. With the Conservation ID, it will prevent anything like that from happening.”

Alabama’s alligator hunt application process went to a preference-point system in 2015 to give those who apply consistently a better chance to get a tag.

Each year that you apply but don’t get a permit, you gain points. Every year you miss out, the total points are cubed. Your chances of success will increase exponentially as you continue to apply yearly. However, don’t skip a year. If you don’t apply one year, your points are erased and you start all over again.

Nix said except for date changes, the 2017 alligator season is essentially the same as 2016. The season will be open in four areas: the Southwest Zone, Southeast Zone, West Central Zone and Lake Eufaula Zone.

The Southwest Zone has 150 tags available, and the 2017 season dates are August 10-13 and August 17-20. The Southeast Zone has 40 permits with season dates of August 12 through September 4. The West Central Zone, where many of the largest gators have been tagged in recent years, has 50 permits and season dates of August 10-13 and August 17-20. The Lake Eufaula Zone has 20 permits and season dates of August 18 through October 2. Tags are not transferable.

Holders of the permits and their crews can hunt gators from 8 p.m. to 6 a.m. in the Southwest, Southeast and West Central zones. Gators can be pursued during daylight and nighttime hours in the Lake Eufaula Zone. A minimum length of 8 feet, measured from tip of snout to end of tail, is in effect for the Lake Eufaula Zone.

Check your status at the same place you applied at outdooralabama.com after noon on July 12 to see if you were selected. Those chosen must affirm their selection by 8 a.m. on July 19 or the permit will go to someone on the waiting list. If you don’t respond before the deadline or if you decline a permit in a certain zone, you lose your preference points.

A mandatory training course will be scheduled for successful permit applicants. If you’ve completed the course previously, you may qualify for exemption.

Nix said the 2016 alligator season was what he considered an average season with a total of 141 gators harvested, ranging from 4 ½ feet to 13 ½ feet. Weights ranged from 16 pounds to 684 pounds.

“The total numbers were pretty close to what we’ve had in the past few years,” he said. “The numbers in the Southwest Zone were down a little, but overall it was pretty close. We seem to fall in the 65- to 70-percent success rate just about every year.”

Of course, Nix pointed out that some hunters will pass up decent gators early in the season and regret it later.

“It happens every year,” he said. “The last night, the hunters are trying to tag a gator. I think we had 30-something gators brought in the last night in the Southwest Zone. People were just filling their tags.”

Nix hopes the alligator hunters will expand their hunting range, especially in the Mobile-Tensaw Delta.

“The Southwest Zone is where I spend most of my time during the alligator season, and I still see people go into the heart of the Delta and stay there,” he said. “I try to encourage people to get out of their comfort zone a little bit. We expanded the zone several years ago to include all of Mobile County and all of Baldwin County, primarily because that’s where the majority of our nuisance alligator complaints come from.

“I would prefer people to harvest those gators during the alligator hunt than Wildlife and Freshwater Fisheries having to take care of them. Very few people venture south of I-10. Of all the alligators that were harvested (88) in the Southwest Zone, only three came from south of I-10.”

The state record alligator was taken by Mandy Stokes and her crew in 2014 just off the Alabama River near Selma. The Stokes gator measured 15 feet, 9 inches and weighed 1,011.5 pounds. The Stokes gator replaced another gator from the West Central Zone, Keith Fancher's 14-foot, 2-inch, 838-pounder, in the record books.

The largest gator from the 2015 season, taken at Lake Eufaula by Scott Evans and crew, was 13 feet, 6 inches and 920 pounds.

Last year’s largest gator came from the Southwest Zone. Lee Wright tagged a 684-pounder that measured 12 feet, 10 inches.

“A lot of big gators have come from the West Central Zone,” Nix said. “But there have been gators just as big come from Lake Eufaula. That gator that Scott Evans harvested weighed 920 pounds and was a couple of feet shorter than the Stokes gator. Hunters have the potential to take gators that weigh 800, 900 or 1,000 pounds in any of our zones.

“The alligator population in Alabama has been gradually increasing throughout the range in the last several years.”  

Visit www.outdooralabama.com/alligator-hunting-season-alabama for information on the application process, rules and regulations.

PHOTOS: (David Rainer) The American alligator population is slowly increasing in Alabama, and those who are selected for the coveted permits may encounter gators that exceed 1,000 pounds in any of the four hunting zones.

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