Wildlife departments decide which alligator permit method is fair

Published 12:36 am Sunday, May 22, 2016

NATCHEZ — Hunters in the Mississippi-Louisiana area can mark their calendars for the 2016 alligator season in the Magnolia State and Sportsman’s Paradise.

Compared to deer, turkeys and waterfowl, the prospect of tagging an alligator is perhaps one of the most thrilling animals for a hunter to harvest, but the privilege is elusive.

The Mississippi Department of Wildlife, Fisheries, and Parks is awarding 920 hunters with alligator hunting permits in 2016 and the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries is expected to award licenses to approximately 1,500 hunters. Permits are distributed into zones on public lands and wildlife management areas in both states.

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The processes by which those permits are awarded differ. MDWFP awards permits on a “first come, first serve” basis while LDWF submits applicants to a lottery.

Officials from both departments said the offices employ the systems each deems most fair given the volume of applicants that apply.

MDWFP Alligator Program Coordinator Ricky Flynt said Mississippi alligator season dates on public lands are set for Aug. 26 to Sept. 5 and hunting on private land extends to Sept. 19.

“The nice thing about it is both the agency and the hunters benefit from the fact that this shortens the length of the whole process,” Flynt said. “In previous years the whole permitting and drawing process was very high maintenance from the agency’s standpoint. It required a lot of man-hours, time and mail. On a first-come, first-serve basis the hunter has instant knowledge whether or not they have a permit. It takes place within just a few minutes.”

LDWF Alligator Biologist Manager Jeb Linscombe said Louisiana east zones open Aug. 31 and the west zones open Sept. 7.

Linscombe said the lottery will take place in late July. In early August the LDWF will contact winning hunters to confirm their participation.

“It’s just the choice we went with,” Linscombe said. “Mississippi’s harvest is much smaller than Louisiana and the demand is higher.”

Linscombe said LDWF received 2,327 statewide applications in 2015. Flynt estimated, via internet traffic reports, approximately 11,000 devices — such as computers, tablets or smartphones — tried to access an alligator licensing application in 2015. Flynt noted the difference between the amount of “devices” accessing the webpage and individual humans requesting applications could vary.

LDWF has made statistical information regarding the lottery process available and Linscombe said the lottery system for alligator tagging includes preference points.

“The more often you put in and don’t get selected, the more times your name is put into the hopper,” Linscombe said.

LDWF posts documents listing selection success rates for WMAs and public locations for the 2015 season. Linscombe said the percentages listed could give hunters an indication which zones an applicant may be more successful in receiving a tag.

“Some people say, ‘I don’t care where I go, I just want the best chance,’” Linscombe said. “If you look at those success rates, there are a lot of people that put in for this.”

Percentages, however, would fluctuate depending on the amount off applicants applying to a particular lake or WMA year to year. For example, Kepler Lake in Bienville Parish tied for the highest 2015 success rate for a public lake at 36 percent. Five permits for Kepler Lake were awarded that season. If more applicants applied, while the number of permits allowed stayed the same, the percentage would decrease.

Linscombe said the distribution of applications received remain “fairly consistent.”

“The areas that people typically put in for happen every year,” Linscombe said. “The areas that fewer people put in for also happen.”

Information on Louisiana lottery submissions is available on lagatorprogram.com. Liscombe said applications must be postmarked by July 5 to be eligable. Information from the Mississippi program is available at mdwfp.com/alligator. Permit requests can be made on MDWFP website on 9 a.m. July 19.