Hunters hope to wrangle in ‘the big one’ as Florida’s gator hunt begins

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POLK COUNTY, Fla. (WFLA) – Gator hunting season kicked off Monday in Florida.

Central Florida is more than just a popular spot to bask in the sunshine. Polk County and other areas are prime for hunting alligators. Beginning Monday evening, enthusiasts will hit the waters in hopes of bagging massive gators.

Each alligator hunting permit includes two CITES tags, allowing the holder to harvest two alligators. The cost is $271.50, however permits for the 2016 season are sold out.

Travis Lanphar, Owner and Captain with Twisted Limbs Bowfishing will be hitting the water as soon as the sun goes down. “They have a red-eye shine at night. When you shine a light across the lake you can see their eyes,” Lanphar said. “It’s an adrenaline rush. You’re dealing with a dangerous animal.”

Lanphar has even had some scares. “We had about a 10-foot gator bite a hole in our air boat, and we were taking on water as we tried to finish the gator, which got kind of scary,” he said.

Lanphar has been hunting alligators with his family for years. This year, he will also serve as a hunting guide for others looking for the thrill. “We have extra tags so we’re charging people to take them out and show them how we hunt the alligators. Also, we do a fee for somebody that has tags but doesn’t have a boat; we can take them out,” Lanphar said.

Polk County is a popular draw for alligator hunters. It’s sought after because there are a lot of lakes with gators.

The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission started the gator hunting program in 1988. This year, FWC received over 13,000 applications and issued more than 6,000 permits for the Statewide Alligator Harvest Program.

According to FWC, alligator conservation is a big success in Florida. The state’s alligator population, which was included on the original Federal Endangered Species List, is now estimated at 1.3 million and has been stable for many years. Recreational harvest opportunities are available in 65 Florida counties and more than 60 specific lakes, rivers, and other named wetlands.

Hunting hours are 5 p.m. through 10 a.m. The season runs from August 15 to November 1 every year.MUST SEE: 15-foot gator killed in hunt at Florida farm

People with concerns about an alligator should call FWC’s toll-free Nuisance Alligator Hotline at 866-FWC-GATOR (866-392-4286). For more information about alligator hunting: http://myfwc.com/wildlifehabitats/managed/alligator/harvest/

Learn more about Florida’s gator hunt tonight at 5:30 on News Channel 8.

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