Georgia Gator Makes a Comeback

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It appears that Georgia's alligator population recovery is an unheralded conservation success story. Nearly hunted out of the state, the population has risen to an estimated 222,0000 today and allows 850 hunting permits per year.

The Augusta Chronicle has a detailed story on the recovery of the Georgia Gator.

Before 1900, alligator populations were abundant across the southeastern U.S., including the coastal plain of Georgia. However, unregulated harvests and poaching reduced their numbers, and a low point was reached in Georgia in the 1960s, when the species was listed as federally endangered. The Georgia Department of Natural Resources first estimated the total alligator population in 1973 at just 29,954. By 1982, the population was estimated at 101,644. Today's estimated 222,000 animals includes a population in most areas where they once thrived, the management plan said.

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hawkeye270's picture

Well it sounds like another

Well it sounds like another case of successful wildlife management bringing a species back from the brink of extinction. The thing that I can't quite figure out is why their harvest quota is so darn small with such a robust population of gators. A quota of 850 for a total population size of over 200,000 seems very low. Expecially when you look at the fact that the success rate is right around 50 percent. I believe the article said that only 300 gators were harvested in the last couple years. That just seems like an incredably small harvest for a population of that size. Colorado's elk population has been sitting in the high two hundred thousands for the last couple years and we harvest fifty to sixty thousand of them a year. And that is just to pretty much maintain the herd (a slight reduction in certain parts of the state). Now why in the heck are they not harvesting that many gators. Is the reproductive potential of gators that low that they have to limit the harvest to that degree?

jim boyd's picture

Gator Fan - that hurt.... our

Gator Fan - that hurt.... our glory days were gone when Hershel Walker went the CFL - that is for sure.

I have been around gators my whole life - we used to beat them with a boat paddle as they were stealing the redbreast off of our bush hooks in the Ebeneezer Swamp when I was a kid.

My grandmother lived in Yulee Florida when I was very little and I recall they would run out of the creek and grab a chicken, then be gone as quick as that... very fast on land for short distances.

The pond is gone now - but Pond 4 on Fort Stewart Military Reservation was so full of them in the 1980's, we would not swim in it night or day.

When we were out bassing at night with rubber worms, if you shined your light across the pond, you would see hundreds of them - with no exxageration - they were everywhere.

We have incidents every year in GA and in SC where folks are bitten by them... the Santee Cooper reservoirs in SC are a good example - one ripped a man's arm off in 2009.

I fish for catfish there a good bit and we see them often. The headwaters of Lake Marion are one of the premier gator hunting destinations in SC.

I guess I am more alarmed when one attacks an outdoorsman than I am when a golfer gets snapped while reaching into the bushes grabbing at a lost golfball - not sure why that is??? (ok, rhetorical statement)

But, I digress... the article was about Georgia - I commend the state not only for this fine effort - Georgia has made some great inroads on a lot of fronts, as it relates to hunters.

They have done this, too, in spite of some drastic cutbacks that have affected the DNR.

My brother Ronnie has a good friend who is a game warden in Georgia and he tells tales of how crippled they are financially - with incredible travel limits imposed, fuel rationing for vehicles, no new hires - all of the maladies that plague just about every other industry (so I guess I should not be surprised).

Georgia has a lot of public land access, too... some of it in some killer deer hunting zones.

I know they are not the Midwest but Georgia hunters fairly routinely take 140 to 160" bucks on public land.

The largest state east of the Mississippi, this is just another chapter - and an excellent success story - in a fine tradition that Georgia has created over the last 100 years or so.

With incredibly diverse and changing landscapes, if I could be an outdoorsman in only state on the east coast, Georgia would get my nod - when you consider it from every angle - fishing, shrimping, crabbing, offshore, hunting, etc.

Way to go, Peach State, from one of your long lost sons!

CVC's picture

Pretty neat conservation

Pretty neat conservation story.  Glad to see they made a comeback and can be hunted.  I'd like to hunt a gator one day. 

gatorfan's picture

Amazing!

It amazes me how these researchers come up with the numbers in these surveys.  I can see how it might be possible to get a semi-accurate count on a migrating species or one that stays in an open area that could be counted from the air, but a count of gators to the single digit?  During my childhood and teenage years, I spent quite a bit of time fishing on the St, John's river in Florida, the Santee Cooper River in South Carolina, and many other bodies of water throughout the southeast.  I can't remember a single outing, other than during the winter months, that I didn't see multiple gators.  They were EVERYWHERE!

I am glad however that they recognized that they hunting was damaging the carry capacity and rectified it by limiting the amount of tags issued.

I thought that Georgia just hated gators and wanted them all gone because of the butt-whooping the Florida Gators put on the Bulldogs every year! :lol: (Sorry, couldn't resist)