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No, this diary is not about college football, certainly not Greendale Community College Human Beings beating the fabled University of Florida Gators, even with high school phenom Troy at quarterback. No, it's what happens when I have idle moments and see something in the local newspaper and start poking around.

Here's a little bit of what I saw in the Tallahassee Democrat on Thursday. Apparently it was written and submitted to the paper by the family involved in hunting and killing a 14 ft 1 inch alligator.  Subscription may be required, or maybe you get a freebie....

The evening started with a typical dad and sons gator hunt, but ended with the catch of a record gator. The Douin's Alligator is one for the record books. Measuring in at 14 feet and 1 inch, it is the fourth alligator to ever break 14 feet in Florida and taking the number two spot in the state.

This alligator was taken out of Lake Talquin on Sept.1, with one of the state issued hunts. Robert, James, Joshua and little Robert all wrestled with this alligator until it reached the boat. They saw the alligator swim into a cove. They followed it, and when they arrived, the beast was in swallow water. The animal, not knowing what to do, walked up the creek in about six inches of water, and the Douin team followed.

Here's the picture they sent in

I know, I had the same question you do. No-no, not "What is "swallow water?"  
It's - This is typical?  This is family fun? Well yes it is.

More about gators and state-sponsored hunts below the fold.

And off I go to the Florida Wildlife Commission to find out more.

A statewide alligator hunt permit is a type of limited entry permit that is required in order to participate in the Statewide Alligator Harvest Program.

Each year, alligator management units are established with appropriate harvest quotas to provide recreational opportunities for Floridians and non-residents to take up to 2 alligators per permit. Applicants who are awarded a permit must submit payment for two CITES tags and an Alligator Trapping License, or provide proof of possession of an Alligator Trapping License valid through the end of the alligator harvest season. A Florida hunting license is not required to participate in the statewide alligator hunt.

CITES - Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora

The alligator used to be endangered but because of restrictions, it is now classified as threatened.

There is no cost to apply but if you win the random drawing:
        $272 for Resident Alligator Trapping License (includes 2 CITES tags),
        $1,022 for Non-Resident Alligator Trapping License (includes 2 CITES tags),
        $62 for 2 CITES tags only
Unlicensed persons can ride in the boat if they do not participate in the activities that involve the take of an alligator.
Here's the statewide numbers for alligator hunts - note the upward curve as the program became more popular. Across the bottom is average length per year.

65,276 is the number of alligators killed in these hunts the last dozen years. There may be (probably is) more - whether legal or not.

On the other hand, from Seaworld research on gators.

Humans can learn to live near alligators by taking wise precautions such as: not feeding them, harassing them, or approaching a nest or group of baby gators. Most alligator attacks are results of a gator that has lost its fear of man because it has been hand fed.
Going back to this diary title, this is what I learned about people killed by gators in Florida since 2000. The FWC used to publish this data but it appears to have been scrubbed from our (yes, this data is ours as citizens) website. Details here and here.

2007 Miami - fleeing police and jumped in pond
2006 Ocala - snorkeling
2006 Oldsmar - found in canal
2006 Sunrise - dangling feet in pond at night
2005 Pt Charlotte - swimming
2005 Lakeland - alligator had been fed by nearby residents
2004 Lee County - swimming in retention pond at night
2004 Sanibel - working near water
2003 Lake County - swimming in river
2001 Sanibel - walking dog by wetlands
2001 Polk County - 2 y/o wandered off to lake
2001 Venice - dementia, wondered off to pond

Let's see - feeding gators, swimming at night, swimming where they are known to be, not aware, or just plain helpless.  I didn't look for incidents of dead pets but I reckon there'd be a bunch of them. I know someone who lost their dog walking by a new pond they had built; totally unexpected and there was nothing he could do once those jaws snapped down and the gator drew back into the water. Drowning and stashing the body to soften for later is typical.

Eww - he's getting gross! Well the gators are doing what they have been doing since the dinosaur era. That's what they are isn't it? Little dinosaurs...

Here's what eats gators, from FWC:

Eggs: Alligator eggs are susceptible to drowning, being crushed by the female, predation, and other less common calamities. Raccoons are the primary predator, although hogs, otters, and bears have been reported to depredate nests.

Juveniles: Small alligators are eaten by a variety of predators including raccoons, otters, wading birds, and fish; however, larger alligators may be their most significant predator.

Adults: Cannibalism, intraspecific fighting, and hunting by humans are probably the most significant mortality factors.

Diseases and Parasites: Very little information is available in the scientific literature on wild alligator diseases and parasites. They are not believed to be a significant problem for wild alligators.

Here's a little more from Seaworld research:
Unlike other reptiles, female alligators will protect young for up to two years after hatching. The first two years are the most critical in the life of an alligator. Eighty percent or more may fall victim to wading birds, raccoons, bobcats, otters, snakes, large bass and even larger alligators. Once an alligator exceeds four feet, it is relatively safe from predators, but may still be vulnerable to cannibalism.
At 4 feet, a gator still has a few years to reach sexual maturity. I bring this up because of one thing I read at the FWC website. "Gators are not mature until they reach 6-7 feet. A female may require 10-15 years and a male 8-12 years to reach these lengths." So young gators need 2 years of mom watching out for them.

Here is the "catch" from the county by me. I used 6 feet 6 inches as an average reproduction size but it could be more. Some of the kills were not even 5 feet.

Sexually Mature at 6.6 feet   
Year        No        Yes         Total
2011        17        33            50
2012        13        28            41
Total        30        61            91

So for Leon County, like where the Douins were "harvesting", a third of gators are under reproduction size.

Alright - I'm tired of this already. You either trust FWC to know that this killing is OK, or that demand for gator killing by the public necessitates this, or it's horrific to kill so many of these amazing creatures. Wait - I left out the 7,000 that are killed as being nuisance. Nuisance meaning they are in the "wrong place" and got acclimated to humans feeding them. FWC can put out all those brochures about keeping your distance, about shielding your pets, about not feeding them, but it is an ever-populous and happily-ignorant state.

Final word from the Douins:

The animal, not knowing what to do, walked up the creek in about six inches of water, and the Douin team followed. To lose weight in the boat so that it would float better in the shallow water little brother Joshua climbed a tree. This let them get a little farther up the creek.

Then, Robert and son Robert jumped out to inch the boat closer with James ready with the harpoon. Once close enough to the alligator, James harpooned it. After they got the alligator under control, they called mom (Kathleen), grandpa (Freddie), and a family friend (Reid) to the rescue with a bigger boat.

The Douins say it was scary and fun and this will always be a found memory.

That was "little Robert" on the kill; no word from the gator about the fond memory, or what they did with the carcass once founded.

And if the gator had it's way it would still being running up the creek with the Douin family hanging on.

Poll

Alligators are

71%27 votes
7%3 votes
13%5 votes
7%3 votes

| 38 votes | Vote | Results

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