Gator Hunt at Loxahatchee Refuge Gets Approval
As throngs of would-be snake hunters flock to our state in the next 30 days to find and take out some invasive pythons, alligators thought they were in the clear.
No so fast, alligators!
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service agreed to allow 11 hunters to enter the Arthur R. Marshall Loxahatchee National Wildlife Refuge and kill themselves a total of 22 alligators, possibly even more.
The refuge announced the decision Wednesday in an official document, making it official for people to walk into their park and officially whack some gators.
The document states that the hunt won't significantly affect the gator population within the refuge. Since there are so many alligators in the perimeter canals, the hunt won't cause much of a problem.
Of course, not everyone is taking the news well. The refuge has been inundated with hundreds of letters opposing the hunt.
But Arthur R. Marshall's deputy project leader, Rolf Olson, says hunting is a traditional activity on wildlife refuges.
"It's not a vote; it's not an election," he said. "We were looking for impacts we hadn't identified, on gators, wildlife, on the economy. We didn't see anything that would stop us from having the hunt."
Olson says that the hunt isn't just a bunch of yahoos running around shooting at gators and that there are specific rules and limits being implemented.
For example, hunters cannot use lead shot. Also, the hunters will be restricted to hunting gators within park hours, when only a small number of visitors will be at the refuge. Hunters must also observe a one-mile buffer zone that keeps them away from heavily used visitors' areas.
So, visitors should be OK.
The gators, however, are still screwed.