Texas to tweak gator-hunting rules

May 2, 2012 4:42:13 PM PDT
Now is the prime time for alligators to be out and active. Over the last several weeks, we've shown you gators hanging out in bayous and on roads. Now, the state is looking at doing something about the animals and they may soon be looking for gator hunters.

The state of Texas has two alligator hunting seasons a year. But when it comes to getting gators out of neighborhoods, that's done by Texas Parks and Wildlife, which like every other state agency, is dealing with budget constraints and cutbacks.

Now some outside help is about to be brought in at no cost to taxpayers -- and the payment may be the alligators themselves.

In recent weeks, we've seen an alligator sunning on a Beltway feeder road and in Simms Bayou near Park Place. Alligators, like the rest of wildlife in the area, are recovering from the drought.

"With the recent rains that we've had, it's brought the alligators back to some of those areas that were affected by the drought so you've seen a migration of alligators going back to some of those areas where the drought had taken its toll," Texas Parks and Wildlife warden Kevin Malonson said.

It's also gator mating season, which means they're more aggressive and mobile. It also means removal specialists like Hal Newsome get more calls -- several a week -- but it's complicated.

"We can't go out and just pick 'em up. We have to call a game warden, the game warden's got to investigate to see if it is an actual nuisance alligator or if it's just an alligator in its normal habitat," Newsome said.

Assuming it's not categorized as a nuisance and accustomed to humans, removal specialists like Newsome are prohibited from charging for their services, meaning the job was all up to game wardens. There's alligator hunting season but not enough hunters.

So now the state has changed the rules that allow hunters who go through state training to contract with property owners who want the gators gone. The hunters, or removal specialists like Newsome, get paid for their time and the unwelcome visitor goes away.

"This makes it a lot easier," Newsome said. "That way they call us, we go out and it's in a pool -- OK -- we get him out of the pool, take him out to an alligator farm or relocate him to the river or whatever the case may be."

Newsome says he would relocate any alligators he takes to his alligator farm in New Caney. Other trappers could opt to harvest the gator and make money by the pound. The program is expected to start in late summer.

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