ORLANDO, Fla. - The Florida Wildlife and Conservation Commission (FWC) could expand the annual alligator hunt. Soon it will vote on letting some hunters extend their season and their territory.
Mark Whitmire caught a 13-foot gator earlier this year and has been hunting in Central Florida for decades.
He's watching closely as the FWC considers changing the rules again.
Right now, hunters can only use one week out of the alligator season, but if the new rule is passed, five people who score special permits can hunt for the entire four weeks or until they catch their two gators.
Instead of only getting to hunt in one designated area, they would be able to hunt anywhere in the state where it is legal.
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"If they open it up, so you can hunt from day one till the end of the season, I could go try that spot," Whitmire said of the spot where he caught his 700-pound gator. "If I don’t see what I like there, I can just go to another spot until I find the one gator that I want."
While Whitmire knows where he would take the golden ticket if he got it, he worries about the most popular spots getting over-hunted.
"So many of these lakes are over-hunted," Whitmire said. "They just keep issuing the same number of tags year, after year, after year, after year, and I don’t think they can sustain that kind of pressure. Not on trophy gators. It takes a long time for a gator to grow to 10, 11, 12 feet."
Instead of opening all areas under the new rule, Whitmire would rather some untouched spots go up for grabs.
"Some of those areas, those gators are probably dying of old age because they’ve never been allowed to be legally publicly hunted," Whitmire said.
According to data from the FWC, the number of alligators harvested across the state has been getting lower since 2019.
The commission plans to bring up the possible rule change at its meeting in Orlando on December 5.