Alligator hunting may expand in Middle Georgia

The Georgia DNR proposed to expand alligator zones this season / Evan Watson (WGXA)

DUBLIN, Ga. -- Middle Georgia may have new places to hunt alligators this upcoming season.

In April, the Georgia Department of Natural Resources (DNR) proposed adding counties to alligator zones.

The DNR wants to add zones above the Fall Line, including in Upson, Monroe, Jones, Spalding and Hancock counties.

According to Bobby Bond with the DNR, they are trying to prevent alligators from going farther north because it isn't their natural habitat. Bond said adding more counties into the zone is a solution.

"Expanding the zone will provide hunting pressure in those areas that will hopefully slow the encroachment of alligators outside of the desired range," Bond said.

There have been multiple sightings in areas where alligators aren't often seen.

"Gators being up there, that's kind of news to me because above the Fall Line they're not supposed to be there," said Jeffrey Shepard, a nuisance alligator trapper. "However, if they're there, they're there."

"The further north you go, it can cause a little bit more of a public outcry if they see an alligator outside of what's perceived to be normal for them," Bond said.

Alligator hunting season begins Aug. 18 and lasts until Oct. 2. Hunters can apply for licenses beginning June 1.

Bond said the Georgia DNR receives thousands of applications each season from all over America.

"Thousands of people apply for these tags and not just in Georgia," Bond said. "We get people from several other states across the country apply to Georgia and try to harvest an alligator."

However, with the thousands of applications come many rejections in order to prevent over-harvesting.

"Biologically you know an alligator is a very slow reproductive animal," Bond said. "It takes a long time re productively to generate adult gators. So we don't want to over-harvest that population."

The DNR collects spotlight data to monitor the alligator population from May to June each year and they use that to determine the number of tags they allow.

Adding these new counties to the alligator zone will hopefully contain them to their natural habitats.

"In the previous two years we probably had the most calls and the most gators show up in the transition zone," Bond said.

The proposed additions to the alligator zone will go before the DNR board later this month. Bond said most of the time the proposals are approved.

The DNR has already begun writing the new guidelines.

Three weeks ago, the Bibb County Sheriff's Office wrangled an alligator that found its way to a ball park.

For more information, head to the DNR website.

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