Gator hunting is growing in popularity across South Carolina.
The state Department of Natural Resources said it expects more than 5,000 applications for a hunters license, up nearly 500 people from last year. All of the applicants get pooled into a lottery system and the DNR will give licenses to percentage of those applicants set by DNR biologists.
“Last year was about 4,500 applicants but this year it looks like it is probably going to be about 5,000 again,” said alligator program coordinator Jay Butfiloski. The number of applications spiked to more than 6,000 a few years ago after several popular hunting shows like Animal Planet’s Gator Boys aired on television, he said.
Butfiloski said around 400 alligators were harvested last year, which he said is a good rate to keep alligators scared of people but not impact their overall population. Butfiloski said humans and alligators are coming into more frequent contact. keeping the population scared of humans helps protect everyone. This is increasingly true considering the average size of alligators taken last year. Alligators taken in the midlands last year averaged over 9 feet and they averaged over 8 feet along the coast.
Butfiloski says that alligator hunting is traditionally done with a party. Only one person in a boat needs an alligator tag from the lottery to cover the whole boat’s hunt as long as everyone has a legal South Carolina hunting license. Alligator hunting can require a few sets of hands as you must legally snare an alligator with a harpoon or gig to bring it alongside the boat before dispatching it.