It’s gator huntin’ time in South Carolina.
Saturday was the official start of the season, which runs until noon on October 8.
Recreationally hunted alligators can be taken for personal trophy, meat consumption, and their prized hides; a catch that only a handful of hunters will be able to enjoy this season.
Nearly 6,400 people applied for permits, which easily topped last year’s 3,800 applications, but only 1,200 were given out for this season. The special permits were handed out by lottery, and allow for only one gator to be bagged per permit.
The state has strict laws in place for alligator hunting, as alligators were an endangered species only two generations ago. The state is divided into four alligator management units (Southern Coastal, Middle Coast, Midlands, and Pee Dee), and accomodates 300 permits per unit. The gators are up for grabs only in public waters or private property where permission is granted, but Wildlife Management Areas are strictly off limits. The shooting of free swimming or basking gators is prohibited in South Carolina, as well as the use of poles and baited hooks.
The Department of Natural Resources says hunters took 471 alligators last year, with an average size of 9 feet, two inches. It’s estimated that more than 100,000 gators live in the state.
South Carolina Radio Network’s Thomas Kenney contributed to this report