TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – Alligator hunting season looks a bit different this year thanks to statewide changes as participants descend on the Sunshine State to harvest some of the estimated 1.3 million alligators.
On Monday, the annual season kicked off under new rules that expand the time and weapons that hunters and trappers can use.
During the spring, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission added certain airbows to the approved weapon list and increased the time participants are allowed to hunt from 17 to 24 hours per day.
The agency said the changes will provide hunters greater flexibility and more opportunities, especially those who are new to the hunt.
Previously, participants were limited to keeping activities between the hours of 5 p.m. to 10 a.m.
"It is easier to navigate a boat and work with hunting equipment during the day. Daylight is helpful when supervising youth in a boat or introducing new participants to alligator hunting," the FWC said.
Additionally, precharged pneumatic airbows were added to the legal methods of capturing an alligator.
These air guns propel arrows that remain attached to a restraining line for hunters to reel in their capture.
"The use of airbows can benefit hunters with mobility challenges and youth or smaller framed hunters who may have limited dexterity or strength," the FWC said.
Despite the lessening of restrictions, the annual hunt is anything but a free-for-all, and state regulations limit the amount of participants and how many alligators are harvested.
The FWC receives over 15,000 applications each year and only issues around 7,000 permits. Each participant is only allowed two harvest two alligators.
The annual hunt started in 1988 and is a popular program to help keep the reptile population in check.
Typically, the hunted alligators run between three and fourteen feet long and come from all regions of the state.
The alligator hunting season runs through the fall and ends on November 1.