Hunting in Loxahatchee Refuge: The Reason it is Justified

alligatorHaving balance in the environment is the key to a well-functioning world. In Florida, the people have to find a balance in living with the American alligator population that has been steadily growing over the years. One way that the state has decided to balance out the population is to establish a season for hunting the alligators. Since 1988 hunting alligators has been legal; and today the cost of a permit for an instate resident to hunt is $272 with others having to pay $1,002. Recently, despite some people strongly protesting the decision, the state has approved to offer licenses to eleven hunters so that they may hunt for alligators in the Loxahatchee National Wildlife Refuge. Despite the negative reaction that activist have towards the decision, this is a good way to combat the fast growing population.

In the beginning, the Arthur R. Marshall Loxahatchee National Wildlife Refuge was established to protect a number of endangered species. The refuge preserves the Northern Everglades in Florida and stretches across 143,874 acres. The once endangered American alligator, calls this place home and since being housed the population has flourished. The population has grown so much that it has become a concern for the people who visit the refuge to fish and see the other animals. About 2,000 to 3,000 alligators live in the reserve, and visitors have reported that the alligators are not afraid of humans at all. There have even been reports of the alligators swimming right up to the visitors’ boats and take their fish right off the line. To control the population living in the refuge, the state has approved licenses for hunting at the refuge for the first time. More than 1,000 people entered the lottery to receive one out of eleven permits. The permits allow hunters to kill only two alligators and to hunt from Friday August 15 until the end of season hunting on November 1ST.

The people who are protesting at the refuge argue that killing the alligators to control the population is immoral. Instead they suggest that the alligators should be given medication to slow down the ability to reproduce. They also state that opening up the Loxahatchee refuge for hunting is not for population control but for the enjoyment of a cruel hobby.

Despite their passion for the alligators there position on the issue is wrong. Not hunting the alligators makes the ones which reside on the refuge more dangerous to humans. Because the refuge has never been hunted in, the alligators that live there do not fear humans at all. In a news report by NBC in Palm Beach, Newton Cook, executive director of the United Water fowlers of Florida stated “As someone who hunts and fishes on the refuge, I can tell you the alligators are thick and unfortunately aggressive”. Experts have cautioned that because of this the alligators would be more likely to attack people. The size of the alligators on the refuge are also a concern. Normally American alligators grow to be about 8 feet long. However, on the refuge the alligators have been reported to be about 12 feet long and some are even larger than that. Having alligators that are not only larger than normal but also more aggressive is extremely dangerous.

To continue, their proposal to use medication as the solution does not seem feasible. To provide the animals with the medication needed would cost both time and money. The protestors have not thought about who would pay for the medication or who would administer the medication to the dangerous creatures. By allowing people to hunt, the population is controlled and mouths are being fed. The hunters are not just hunting for sport, but for food and income. One permit holder said that none of the animal will be wasted. The meat would be barbecued and the skin would be used for other purposes. While some plan on eating it themselves others plan on selling some of the meat. Alligator ribs sell for about 18 dollars in Florida which could allow for the hunters to collect some revenue for their efforts.

Also, allowing a small number of hunters into the refuge keeps the population in check without causing a big disturbance. As previously mentioned only eleven hunter actually hold a permit and they are only allowed to kill two alligators. Tony Young , the head of the Wildlife Commission stated that the population of American alligators is large and sustainable enough to allow hunters to go into the Loxahatchee refuge. In an article by the Sun Sentinel the project leader for the refuge, Rolf Olson, said that, “with 134 counted in a single canal, that the loss of 22 would have no impact”. In the same article a Florida police officer also shared his belief that allowing hunters is good for the protection of general public. With head officials providing the information that proves the alligators are no longer endangers and saying that the loss of twenty-two will not damage the population, I do not see the problem with opening up the refuge to the eleven selected hunters.

Hunting being done on the refuge is also being strictly regulated. To ensure that the permitted hunters are not disrespecting the refuge and that the alligators are not being tortured, only approved hunting utensils can be used. Harpoons, rod-and-reels, snares, gigs and crossbows are the only things that the hunters are allowed to use to catch the alligators. Once caught, they hunters must immediately use a bang stick to kill the alligator. A bang stick is a rod which shoots out a desired caliber bullet or shotgun shell directly into the brain of the alligator causing immediate death. Having these rules implemented shows that hunting on the refuge will not be like hunting alligators publicly ―where you are allowed to shoot them with pistols which do not always cause instant death. Also, the hunters will only be able to hunt at night so that they do not disturb the other activities that occur in the refuge during the day. Hunting at the Loxahatchee National Wildlife Refuge will be organized and humane.

In closing, allowing eleven people to hunt in the Loxahatchee National Wildlife Refuge should not be looked down upon. Allowing the hunters to hunt twenty-two alligators keeps the population at bay and the public safe. It also ensures that the animals will be killed properly so that they do not have to suffer. There are no negatives that effects that have been proposed if hunting at the refuge is allowed. Opening it up for permitted hunters only reaps positive results.

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