In two long weekends, Arkansas hunters harvested 94 alligators during the 2017 alligator hunting season, eclipsing the previous record of 66 taken in 2016.
Mark Barbee, AGFC biologist at the Monticello Regional Office who coordinates the annual hunt, says the increase is largely the result of increased permits being available to hunt.
"We’ve had steady interest in hunting (alligators), and our population is in good shape," Barbee said. "We’ve been able to increase the harvest over the years to give more hunters opportunities to participate in the hunt."
Barbee says 152 permits were available for the 2017 season, of which 101 were available for public draw.
"The other permits are given to some large land holders with exceptionally high alligator populations to be able to eliminate nuisance issues in a controlled hunt," Barbee said.
Although no one checked in an alligator topping the current state record of 13 feet 10 inches, many 11- and 12-foot alligators were checked during the season.
"Typically you’re going to get a bunch of 6- to 9-footers as well," Barbee said. "But I’ve seen reports of couple of really good 12-footers."
The southeast zone was responsible for 50 alligators harvested, while the southwest zone had 44 harvested animals. The harvest is typically fairly consistent, with zones trading places in total number of gators checked, depending on the weather and flooding.
Barbee says that although nuisance calls were lower this year than in the past, he doesn’t think it is the result of the population declining from the harvest.
"Our surveys still show plenty of alligators," Barbee said. "I just think people are becoming a little more used to seeing them in the state. It used to be that if someone saw an alligator, they reported it, but now they’re a little more tolerant of them. Some people even see it as an opportunity to hunt them if they draw a private and at-large tag."