Falling just short of 2020’s record-breaking year, Arkansas hunters brought in a huge alligator harvest for the 2021 season at 161.
Since 2007, Americans have been (legally) hunting gators in order to help maintain populations and fund further conservation work. It was a long road to get there, however. The American alligator was originally a federally endangered species, but the states stepped up and brought this incredible animal back from the brink of extinction. Today, wildly healthy populations exist in many states across the Southeast.
When the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service brought forth the first alligator hunts in 2007, the first season saw a total of 21 alligator harvests in Arkansas. Now, for the 15tth Annual Arkansas Alligator Season, the state’s hunters have brought in 161 gators during the two-weekend season, Arkansas Game & Fish Commission states.
Last year, however, set the record for a single season with a whopping 174 alligators. AGFC sought to lessen the total for 2021, though, citing this decrease as “primarily by design.”
The drop in available gator tags was reduced in order to “continue managing the alligator population with an eye on conserving the species. As well as controlling nuisance issues and providing hunting opportunities,” the commission said in a statement Wednesday.
“This was the second year of the new private land quota system, and it was the second time in a row that the private land zones reached their quota by the end of the opening weekend,” adds AGFC wildlife assistant regional supervisor in southeast Arkansas, Mark Barbee.
AGFC’s Mark Barbee Says 2021 Alligator Season a ‘Great Example of Sportsmanship and Ethics’ in Arkansas
“I imagine quite a few of the gators taken on private land are landowners wanting to remove an alligator for nuisance purposes, so they’re ready that first weekend and have the animal pretty well patterned by the time the hunt begins,” Barbee continues.
Barbee is in charge of coordinating the state’s alligator hunts. He says everything went off in Arkansas this year without a hitch. A few public land zones did see unfilled tags, but not for a lack of trying.
“Some people in the public land hunts hold out a little for a bigger gator,” he tells AGFC. “With only two weekends to seal the deal, some of those hunters don’t find a gator they want to take or wait too late to go back and get one of the smaller alligators.”
In addition, Barbee cites one hunter who unfortunately would not be able to take advantage of his harvest. Yet he still did the right thing in checking with authorities.
“We had one incident where a hunter harpooned an alligator… But it submerged and hung up underneath a bunch of logs and limbs,” he begins. “The hunter thought he had lost it, but it floated to the surface a couple of days later. They were able to recover the head for taxidermy and check the gator… But the meat and skin had already begun to decompose.”
An unfortunate – and accidental – waste for any Outsider, to be sure. But Barbee says he does “really appreciate them calling and checking the animal even if they didn’t get to use it. It’s a great example of the sportsmanship and ethics we see in our hunters here in Arkansas.”