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(including hunting) their own alligator populations. ties each year as a result of nuisance complaints. hunting season. The initial area open to alligator hunt - Management plans still had to be approved by USFWS However, every nuisance complaint call does not result in ing was a 16.5-mile portion of the Pearl River north of and alligators had to be tagged with a CITES the removal of an alligator. Many alligators are removed the Ross Barnett Reservoir, which is home to the densest (Convention on International Trade in Endangered as a result of being in “out-of-place” locations, such as population of alligators anywhere in Mississippi. In 2013, Species) tag. “TSA” refers to the fact that alligators, or residential ponds or yards, swimming pools, marinas, limited alligator hunting opportunities expanded more specifically alligator hides and parts, are very dif - and highways. statewide, on public waterways. ficult to distinguish from the hides and parts of other Numerous complaints are received because alligators endangered crocodilians such as the American Crocodile have lost their natural fear of humans and human activ - To report a nuisance alligator or persons violat- (Crocodylus acutus) or the Chinese Alligator (Alligator ity. This behavior is usually the result of people purpose - ing alligator regulations call your local MDWFP sinensis). ly or indirectly feeding alligators. Feeding alligators is District Office or 1-800-BE-SMART. illegal in Mississippi, due to obvious concerns and danger The Mississippi Alligator Program that can develop when alligators begin to associate a food North Region Office (662) 563-6222 In the 1960's and 70's, alligators from Louisiana were source with human activity. Regularly feeding fish or (Enid) released in locations throughout Mississippi, partially in the use of automatic fish feeders in habitats occupied by an attempt to help control beaver and partially to alligators is greatly discouraged. Alligators will feed enhance locally depleted alligator populations. upon fish food and are attracted to the activity of feeding Central Region Office (601) 859-3421 Alligators were often moved into places where they had fish. (Canton) not historically occurred. Later research indicated that alligators had little effect on beaver populations. With Protection and Regulation South Region Office (601) 783-2911 Endangered Species protection, alligator populations It is illegal to possess live alligators in Mississippi, (Magnolia) quickly rebounded and by the 1980's began to create sig - except by special permit for certified educational facili - nificant nuisance problems. The conservation status of ties. It is illegal to buy, sell, hunt, kill, catch, chase, or the American alligator was changed in Mississippi from possess alligators or the parts of alligators except under Endangered to TSA in 1987. In 1988, a management special permit from the MDWFP. It is also illegal to dis - plan for Mississippi was approved and in 1989 our alliga - turb an alligator nest or to buy, sell, take, or possess alli - Safety suggestions for areas tor program was begun. The Mississippi plan allowed gator eggs. However, possession of legally acquired occupied by alligators: only for control and removal of nuisance alligators by mounted trophies, or articles manufactured from the Conservation Officers or by licensed Agent-Trappers. skins, hides, or parts is allowed provided there is proper • Observe alligators from a safe distance. The program also allowed licensed individuals to com - documentation from the state of origin. All wild alliga - • Never harass or tease an alligator. mercially raise alligators on alligator farms or ranches. tors or their parts must be identified with a federal Until recently, Agent-Trappers were only licensed in the export tag number from the state of origin. Penalties for • Never intentionally feed alligators. three coastal counties, but in 1998 the MDWFP began to violating alligator regulations range from $100 – $5,000, • Discourage others from feeding alligators. expand the Agent-Trapper program throughout the and may include revocation of hunting/fishing/trapping • Don’t discard fish parts in or near water. entire state. Another major objective of the alligator privileges. • Don’t discard wasted food in or near water. program is to continually survey alligator populations by • Avoid regularly feeding of fish or use of fish conducting repeated spotlight counts along standard Hunting Alligators feeders. census routes. MDWFP conservation officers and Alligator populations in some areas of Mississippi have • Never swim at night. wildlife biologists annually conduct approximately 30 grown to levels that will accommodate limited regular • Never allow small children or pets to alligator spotlight survey routes on 15-17 public water - harvest. Harvest through public hunting provides recre - swim/wade near alligators. ways. ational opportunities for sportsmen and women to play Information and Photography • Never approach an alligator nest. an important role in the management of a valuable, By Ricky Flynt Nuisance Alligators renewable, natural resource. Managing alligator popula - • Never attempt to catch an alligator. Alligator Program Coordinator Removal of nuisance alligators presents significant tions is important to maintaining an ecological balance regulatory, public relations, and personnel safety prob - in wetlands where they exist. Mississippi’s first alligator Mississippi Department of Wildlife, Fisheries, and Parks lems; therefore, we have developed a detailed procedure season took place in September 2005. Currently, alliga - Visit the Mississippi Department of Wildlife, Fisheries,
for handling nuisance alligator complaints. MDWFP tor hunting in Mississippi is highly regulated and limited and Parks online at www.mdwfp.com Revised: 7/2013 personnel and agent alligator trappers remove hundreds to specific areas in Mississippi. Hunters must apply for of alligators from public waterways and private proper - limited numbers of permits to participate in the alligator www.mdwfp.com/alligator Brochure_Layout 1 8/4/17 9:52 AM Page 2
Department of Wildlife, Females usually begin building nests and laying eggs Alligators will often travel long distances from den Fisheries, & Parks during early June to mid-July. Nests typically contain 20- sites after emerging in the spring to search for food and (MDWFP) has conducted 40 eggs. Incubation lasts 60 days and young typically mates, and young alligators disperse in search of new ter - regular spotlight counts hatch during mid-August to mid-September. Only the ritory. Breeding generally occurs in late April and May. since the early 1970's. The female takes part in guarding the nest and rearing This time period (April-June) is when the MDWFP alligator population in young. Young alligators stay in a pod within close vicin - receives the most nuisance complaint calls. Juvenile Mississippi has remained ity of their mother and siblings for 2-3 years. males (4-7 feet long) may travel significant distances to fairly stable in the coastal Alligator eggs and hatchlings are preyed upon by many disperse into territories not occupied by other adult counties, but the population predators including raccoons, coyotes, great blue herons, males, who are very territorial during the breeding sea - in the remainder of the state other wading birds, skunks, mink, and fish. Generally, son. has increased dramatically. only about 15-20% of eggs from a clutch will hatch and Alligators are now locally survive the first three years; in some areas, survival may History of Regulations abundant in areas of suitable be much lower due to nest predation, mainly by rac - Alligators became rare throughout most of their range habitat throughout the coons. Mature male alligators are cannibalistic, particu - by the 1960's, mainly as a result of over-harvest and lack southern two-thirds of the larly during times of breeding and environmental stress. of protective regulations. In 1967, the U.S. Fish and state, particularly in the The MDWFP has documented a 10 foot 2 inch male alli - Wildlife Service (USFWS) listed the American alligator Pearl River drainage in and gator that swallowed a 5 foot 2 inch male alligator, whole. as an Endangered Species under the newly enacted around Ross Barnett Alligators are not true “hibernators,” but do become Endangered Species Convention Act. Once protected, Reservoir; most major river mostly dormant from late fall to early spring. Alligators however, alligators quickly rebounded and by the mid- drainage systems (e.g., Big spend the winter in dens dug out along the edges of gator 1970's the listing was modified for Louisiana, Florida, Black, Bayou Pierre, Steele holes, bayous, riverbanks, ponds, oxbows, and even aban - and later Georgia to Threatened by Similarity of Bayou, Big Sunflower, Little doned beaver burrows. Depending on the weather, they Appearance (TSA). The TSA designation meant that Sunflower, and the generally enter dens around mid-November and do not alligators were now known to be abundant in parts of Pascagoula River and associ - eat for the next four or five months. On warm, sunny their range and states were allowed to begin managing ated tributaries) ; in oxbows days they may come and swamps of the Delta, out of dens to bask, Alligator Awareness where they pose a particular nuisance for catfish farm - but usually do not Alligators may be found in most of Mississippi’s major ers; in and around the Noxubee, Panther Swamp, venture far from den rivers, creeks, oxbows, and reservoirs, as well as some Hillside, and Yazoo National Wildlife Refuges; and in sites. Alligators are small lakes, ponds, and sloughs. When alligators are oxbows, lakes and barrow-pits along the entire cold-blooded and encountered: avoid close contact, keep a safe distance, Mississippi River. A survey of MDWFP field officers, cannot digest prey in and warn others who may be in the vicinity and unaware. biologists, and technicians in 2006 revealed the existence cold temperatures; Large alligators are capable of attacking and causing of alligators in 74 of 82 counties. Alligators were they must maintain a serious injury or death to humans, pets, and livestock. described as “frequently occurring” in 13 counties and body temperature Alligators can travel as fast as a horse for short distances “common” in 25 other counties. around 73 degrees in across land and water. Alligators are stealthy predators order to digest food. and use the element of surprise. Their presence may not Biology In the coastal marsh - be easily detected. Therefore, always use caution in areas Alligators are cold-blooded reptiles. They reach sexu - es, alligators wallow known to occupy alligators. al maturity once they grow to about 6-7 feet long. out shallow pools Alligator growth rates vary, but in adequate habitats called “gator holes”. Distribution young alligators may grow as much as 8-12 inches each Many other marsh The American alligator ( Alligator mississippiensis ) is year. However, growth rates of mature alligators (over 7 inhabitants depend found throughout the southeastern United States, up the feet) may decrease significantly. Larger alligators (over on the gator holes as Atlantic coastal plain to North Carolina and west to cen - 10 feet) have been documented to grow as little as one sources of fresh tral Texas to southeastern Oklahoma. In Mississippi, inch in a year. After reaching 3-4 feet in length, an alli - water and breeding alligators are most abundant in Jackson, Hancock, and gator has few predators, with the exception of humans pools for amphib - Harrison counties, but have been recorded as far north and other alligators; therefore, most alligators that sur - ians, crustaceans, as Coahoma and Tunica counties. The Mississippi vive the first 3-5 years will likely become mature adults. and fish.