For hunters yearning to be “Swamp People,” Georgia sells gator permits

By David Pendered

Georgia has opened applications for hunters who want to experience the alligator hunting adventures seen on “Swamp People.”

A gator is brought onto a boat in this picture from Coweta County Gator Getters. Credit: ccgatorgetters.com

A gator is brought onto a boat in this picture from Coweta County Gator Getters. Credit: ccgatorgetters.com

There’s as much competition for a Georgia gator permit as there is for the actual lizard-like predator, which is the prey in the History channel’s hit reality TV series “Swamp People.” The show is in a genre similar to “Duck Dynasty.”

Georgia wildlife officials expect more than 10,000 applications for the 850 permits the state intends to issue this year. Hunters have killed 2,095 gators in Georgia since 2003, according to state records.

“We anticipate that alligator quota hunt application interest will be on par with past years, and expect more than 10,000 applicants,” said John Bowers, chief of the state’s Game Management Section. “If you have been fortunate enough to be selected for an alligator hunting permit, be sure to encourage friends and others to apply for the experience of a lifetime.”

Georgia’s gator season runs from Sept. 6 through Oct. 5.

Coweta County Gator Getters is one of the businesses advertises on the web its services for Georgia’s gator hunters.

"Swamp People" now features a mother/daughter team of gator hunters, Liz Cavalier and daughter Jessica. Credit: history.com

“Swamp People” now features a mother/daughter team of gator hunters, Liz Cavalier and daughter Jessica. Credit: history.com

The company charges $400 for a 12-hour, overnight hunting trip on Lake Seminole. That’s the price for the first hunter in a group and the fee for each additional hunter in the group is $150.

Gator Getters also will skin and process each dead gator for $25 a foot. Options include a skull mount for $200, if the gator is less than 8 feet, and $250 for the skull mount if the gator is longer than 8 feet.

The average length of gators killed in Georgia is 8 feet 4 inches, according to the state. The record gator in Georgia was killed in 2013 and measured 13 feet 11 inches. Gator territory is south of the gnat line, which extends from Columbus through Macon to Augusts.

The success of the “Swamp People” TV show has focused some attention from animal rights advocates on the hunting of alligators for profit. Other concerns relate to the show’s depiction of the violent end of alligators. The show displays disclaimers that warn of the violence and observe that generations of hunters have killed alligators to sell their meat and hide.

The show was a surprise success following its Aug. 22, 2010 debut.

It was the top-rated cable show in its time slot, raking in 4.2 million total viewers, with 2.5 million of those viewers in the demographic sweet spot of ages 25 to 54 years, according to broadcastingcable.com. The series’ fifth season concluded in June.

Gator hunting has gained popularity in Georgia, even as gators have become harders for hunters to locate and kill. Click on the chart for a larger version. Credit: Georgia Department of Natural Resources

Gator hunting has gained popularity in Georgia, even as gators have become harders for hunters to locate and kill. Click on the chart for a larger version. Credit: Georgia Department of Natural Resources

Alligators no longer are listed as an endangered species and, actually, now are portrayed as an example of successful environmental stewardship.

The alligator population has recovered from losses caused by heavy hunting and loss of habitat that drove them toward extinction. In 1967, alligators were added to nation’s list of endangered species. The situation has improved.

According to National Georgraphic:

  • “State and federal protections, habitat preservation efforts, and reduced demand for alligator products have improved the species’ wild population to more than one million and growing today.”

State records suggest gators are becoming increasingly difficult to locate and kill.

The success rate of hunters has dropped from 39 percent to 29 percent, during the period from 2003 through 2013.

The decline has accompanied a rising number of permits. The number issued has increased from 104 in 2003 to 850 over the past five years.

 

David Pendered, Managing Editor, is an Atlanta journalist with more than 30 years experience reporting on the region’s urban affairs, from Atlanta City Hall to the state Capitol. Since 2008, he has written for print and digital publications, and advised on media and governmental affairs. Previously, he spent more than 26 years with The Atlanta Journal-Constitution and won awards for his coverage of schools and urban development. David graduated from North Carolina State University and was a Western Knight Center Fellow. David was born in Pennsylvania, grew up in North Carolina and is married to a fifth-generation Atlantan.

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