The proposal to hunt alligators in the Loxahatchee National Wildlife Refuge in Florida was put forth at a public meeting in West Palm Beach earlier this week. The refuge wants to permit the harvesting of 22 alligators by issuing 11 permits in 2013 with a bag limit of two alligators per hunter. The refuge sits just southeast of Lake Okeechobee.
Accepted methods of take include snares, gigs, harpoons, spearguns, crossbows and bangsticks, according to Channel 5 WPTV in Florida.
Animal rights activists came carrying signs with messages like “NO hunting in a refuge” and “alligator hunters not welcome,” while hunters came simply dressed in camouflage and orange vests. Of the approximately 100 people that showed up, hunters outnumbered the activists by about 2 to 1.
Supporters of the proposal said the hunt was necessary to keep a top predator population in check. Byron Maharrey, former president of the Everglades Coordinating Council, said there have been a number of people hurt or killed by alligators in Florida. The manager of the refuge, Sylvia Pelizza, said a study of the alligator population there found they have a healthy number of alligators available for harvest.
Opponents, like Don Anthony, communications director for the Animal Rights Foundation of Florida, said, “it’s offensive to even consider allowing the killing of animals in a so-called refuge.” Opponents said the hunt itself would be a disturbing sight to most visitors who come to recreate in the refuge.
A decision on whether to proceed with the hunt is scheduled to be made this November.