Even after seven years living in beautiful Coastal Georgia, I still have what I call my "Dorothy" moments when I say to my West Highland terrier: "Dexter, I’ve a feeling we’re not in London anymore."
One of these happened recently when I learned that we only have a few days left until the end of the 2016 alligator hunting season. This six-week season officially ends at sunset on Oct. 3, so if you haven’t gotten your ’gator this year, you better hurry. Until I moved to Georgia, I really had no idea that you could hunt alligators and, being a city girl raised in London, I have to ask — why would you want to? It all seems very "Crocodile Dundee" to me.
According to the Georgia Department of Natural Resources, Georgia’s alligator population is managed through a regulated hunting season in addition to the licensed, year-round nuisance alligator trappers who remove about 450 alligators statewide every year. Good to know.
It is all carefully regulated and would-be hunters have to apply and pay for a special license in addition to their regular hunting license.
Hunters are limited to one alligator per year and their prey needs to measure at least 48 inches from snout to tip. Also according to the DNR, "Hunters may use hand-held ropes or snares, snatch hooks, harpoons, gigs or arrows with a restraining line attached. Legal alligators must be dispatched immediately upon capture by using a handgun or bang stick, or by severing the spinal cord with a sharp implement."
Nope, I am still not tempted, even though the DNR describes it as "a totally hands-on, eye-to-eye hunting adventure unlike any other hunting experience you can pursue in Georgia."
I don’t really like the thought of wearing alligator leather or eating alligator meat since I generally don’t like anything to do with reptiles. Since I have decided to immerse myself into pretty much every nook and cranny that the regional culture of Coastal Georgia has to offer, however, I set off to find out a few more interesting facts about alligators at www.livescience.com.
Did you know?
• American alligators live in slow-moving rivers, ponds, lakes and swamps from North Carolina to Texas.
• Members of the Crocodylia family, alligators are closely related to crocodiles. You can tell the difference because alligators are black and you can see all of their teeth when their rounded snout is closed. Crocodiles are grey-green with pointed snouts and only the fourth tooth on the lower jaw can be seen when the animal’s mouth is closed. Crocs like saltwater, while alligators like fresh. In Georgia, we only have alligators.
• Gators can live for 50 to 60 years, can grow to about 14 to 16 feet and weigh as much as 1,000 pounds. They can stay under water for hours at a time, but usually come up for air every 20 or 30 minutes. They can swim up to 20 mph and, on land, can achieve 30 mph in a short burst. Fortunately, they tire out very quickly!
• Alligators are carnivores and will eat fish, molluscs, birds, small mammals and other reptiles, but the larger ones have been known to eat deer and tragically pet dogs and people. Their jaws can exert 3,000 pounds of pressure.
• Alligators are social creatures and often stay in groups called congregations, typically seen basking in the sun. This is because alligators can’t control their temperature internally. So, when they are cold, they sunbathe, and when they are hot, they go for a swim.
• Alligator tail apparently tastes like chicken, but the leg meat is more like pork or turtle.
Due to loss of habitat and unregulated market hunting, gator numbers were well down in the mid-20th century and listed as endangered in 1967. Over the next 20 years, alligator populations increased to the point that their protected status was reduced, allowing greater flexibility to manage populations and controlled hunting was introduced. Hence, the Georgia alligator hunting season!
TV news anchor Dan Rather once said: "Don’t taunt the alligator until after you’ve crossed the creek." I can assure you I will be steering well clear!
God bless America!