The Daily Item, Sunbury, PA

Pets

October 7, 2013

It’s gator time in Florida, and the bigger the better

ORLANDO, Fla. — It’s the middle of Florida’s alligator hunting season, and that means sportsmen — and women — across the state are vying for mammoth creatures that will put them in the record books.

The state’s record — a 14-foot, 3 1/2-inch alligator — is held by an Orlando man who caught the gigantic creature in a Brevard County lake three years ago.

Early last month, hunters outside of Tallahassee came close to topping that when they captured a 14-foot, 1-inch gator in Lake Talquin. That now holds the official spot as Florida’s second-largest gator.

Other massive creatures have been captured throughout Florida in recent weeks, including a 13-footer weighing more than 735 pounds caught by an Orange County deputy sheriff and two friends in the Econlockhatchee River.

And a St. Johns County couple reportedly caught a 13-foot, 7-inch alligator in Lake George. But that one didn’t make the record book because its size wasn’t confirmed by the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission.

Florida’s alligator-hunting season began Aug. 15 and ends Nov. 1, and so far, it’s been a fairly routine one, said Steve Stiegler, a wildlife biologist with the FWC’s alligator-management program.

The state issued 6,363 permits this year; each one allows hunters to capture two alligators in designated areas.

Stiegler said male alligators in the 13-foot range are routinely captured during the hunting season, and there’s no evidence Florida’s gators are getting bigger.

Florida’s four largest documented alligators are males in the 14-foot range. The remaining ones rounding out the top-10 list are larger than 13 feet, 5 inches.

The heaviest of the gators was a 1,043-pounder pulled from Orange Lake in 1989.

Female alligators are significantly smaller than males. The largest female captured in Florida came in at 10 feet, 2 inches and was found in Lake Smart in 1981.

So what’s the trick to nabbing one of these mammoth creatures?

Finding them really comes down to one thing, Stiegler said: “There’s definitely a luck factor.”

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