Capabilities of Hunters to Shoot and Retrieve Free-swimming Alligators

Wildlife agency personnel monitored 70 hunters using centerfire weapons and shotguns to take free-swimming American alligators (Alligator mississippiensis) at a managed freshwater marsh in southeast Texas. One or more shots were fired by 64 hunters at 117 alligators of which 43 alligators were killed and retrieved; a minimum of 17 were visibly hit but not retrieved. There was no association between the outcome of a specific shooting event and the method of hunting, size of the alligator, or distance at which shots were initiated. There was an association between outcome of an event and the type of weapon used; shotguns resulted in more hits without retrieval. Despite better performance than shotguns, centerfire weapons caused a minimum 22% nonretrieval rate. These data, combined with past Texas alligator hunter surveys concerning likelihood of firearm use, indicated that a harvest involving firearms and other currently legal methods could result in 6% to 12% increased mortality due to unretrieved loss beyond annual harvest.

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