If you’re unemployed and not afraid of a little life-or-death situation, here’s a job for you — alligator hunter.
The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission’s Statewide Nuisance Alligator Program received more than 14,000 complaints last year labeled “alligator nuisance” (that’s putting it mildly) and is now looking to hire a few more alligator hunters — or trappers, as they're called in gator country — to alleviate the “nuisance” in developed areas.
What do you have to do to be an alligator hunter? According to the FWC NAP (nuisance alligator program), you need to have a clean criminal record, no history of fish or wildlife violations and and a permit for alligator trapping. You also need to have your own equipment and a working email address — and, while not required, it’s probably a good idea to get a waterproof iPhone case. You don’t want to be telling the story about that time you lost your iPhone AND your hand while alligator hunting. (Though I’m sure it would get you a free drink at the bar or a smile from the ladies.)
The application is pretty straightforward — name, address, proposed area of responsibility, how you learned about the position, alligator trapping license number, age, phone and email. (I’m pretty sure there were more questions on our “Are you attending the holiday party” survey than there are for the alligator hunter position.)
On the upshot, there’s a pretty good supply — wildlife officials estimate that there are 1.3 million wild alligators in Florida and nearly every inch of the gator can be sold, from skin (handbags) to meat (yum). Plus, there’s the bonus adrenaline buzz AND you get to work in sunny Florida. (OK, so it's the swampy part but whatever. There's sun.) On the downside, the hunting season is only a few months long so you’ll have to find work for the rest of the year doing things like airboat swamp tours, running an alligator fritter cart, sewing alligator handbags or whatever. And, the state of Florida records an average of 7 alligator-related deaths per year.
Of course, you have many questions such as — how fast can an alligator run?
If you’re asking that question, you may not be cut out for this profession. According to the FWC, no one has ever tried to measure the ground speed of an alligator because IT DOESN’T MATTER. “Alligators are aquatic animals; they hunt and capture prey that is in or immediately adjacent to water.” The only time they run is to flee so seriously, if you’re afraid of a high-speed alligator, this job may not be for you.
And as for that myth that you should run zig-zag to avoid a charging alligator? Seriously, dude, this profession may not be for you. There is no evidence that running zig-zag will help you, the FWC says. If you should find yourself in the crosshairs of an alligator, they advise running in a straight line away from the alligator habitat as quickly as possible.
How long can they stay underwater without coming up for air? For an hour – or even several hours, so don't even think that certificate from "Sunfish Swimming Classes" you received when you were eight will help you outlast a gator underwater.
Oh, and if you’ve seen one of those alligator hunter shows or a wrestling match, it IS true that clamping the mouth shut and flipping them over on their backs increases your chance of winning.
How big do they get? Females rarely exceed 9 feet, according to the FWC, but the record for the largest male alligator in Florida was 14 feet, 3 ½ inches, weighing in at 654 pounds. (It was taken, incidentally, by a male nurse in November 2010, who described it as the “second luckiest day of my life” — after, of course, his wedding day to his wife Janette.)
For sure, it’s a wild job. That guy said after harpooning the beast, it “death-rolled,” and dragged their boat around for 45 minutes before they were able to capture him. One famous picture from wildlife officials in Georgia shows an alligator swimming with an adult deer in its mouth.
Maybe you should make getting to the gym more of a priority.
The Alligator Harvest Training and Orientation Manual answers many of these questions and even offers elaborate descriptions of alligator attacks. One clever alligator trapper who was attacked had the sense to gouge the beast’s eyes out with the hand NOT in its jaws, which probably saved his life. (And yes, all of this is in the manual. What did you think would be in the manual, how to clear a jam in the copier?!)
A license is required to be legally allowed to hunt gators and the requirements are strict — right down to how you can bait and capture the gator — and where. You can’t go willy nilly shooting a gator with a homemade bazooka in some guy's backyard.
Training and orientation seminars are not mandatory but permit holders are “strongly encouraged to do so” by the FWC.
How much does alligator hunting pay? Most of the pay for this type of job would come from the fact that you get to keep the carcass of the alligators you capture and can then sell them to an alligator-processing facility. (The FWC wouldn't say how much they're paying.)
Typically, it's not per hour or per year — it's per gator and it all depends on the quality of the skin. And, to be honest, the recession has taken a toll. During the luxury heyday – when we all watched Dynasty, wore big shoulderpads and carried alligator handbags, hides of wild alligators soared as high as $60 per foot, according to the Louisiana newspaper Vermilion Today. Now, they go for about $12 to $15 a foot. So, for example, a 10-foot gator might go for about $120 to $150.
Only you know if that’s worth it.
To be clear, this particular opening is for capturing “nuisance alligators” which are those that are posing a particular menace to people. So, instead of being a regular alligator hunter where you canvass a certain area, you would be sent on missions for specific gators, much like Tom Cruise or Charlie’s Angels. Also, this isn’t a wildlife catch-and-release show — any gators captured must be killed. So, if you can't run with the big dogs, you need to get your gator trap back on the porch.
If you’re still interested, you can apply at www.MyFWC.com/Alligator.
And of course, we can't talk about alligator hunting without a shout out to the late Steve Irwin, aka "The Crocodile Hunter."
Shhhhhhhhhh .... let's observe the croc in his natural habitat ... what an amazing creature ... highly secretive ... powerful ... look at 'em as he gloyds through the muh-key watah …
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