Wanted: Gator hunters; experience (obviously) required; contact Louisiana Wildlife, Fisheries _lowres

Advocate staff file photo by BRAD BOWIE -- An alligator suns itself on a log in the waters of Lake Martin on Nov. 11, 2015 in Breaux Bridge.

The Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries is taking bids from experienced alligator hunters to work in 13 wildlife management areas, two properties owned by the Army Corps of Engineers, and a state wildlife refuge.

Hunters bid a percentage of their earnings total from meat and hides.

Each area has a target number of alligators to harvest, ranging from 10 to 90. That’s both maximum and minimum. Hunters who don’t meet the target still must pay as if they had. Payment for alligators not caught is based on the average for the nearest department property where reptiles are harvested.

Those who do a satisfactory job each year can work the same area through 2018.

The minimum bid is 40 percent of the total.

Winners cannot use these hunts to guide or outfit sport hunters, or for any television or reality show.

The bid program is a tiny part of Louisiana’s alligator season, authorizing 30 hunters to bring in nearly 1,800 alligators.

About 3,300 licensed alligator hunters killed 36,000 alligators on private wetlands in 2014, and more than 300 can take about 850 a year through state public lands lottery hunts.

And alligator farming has a much bigger harvest than all hunting put together. Nearly 342,000 were harvested on alligator farms in 2014, the most recent year for which statistics are available.

Hunting and farming are tightly regulated, since over-hunting once endangered the species. It was removed from the endangered list in 1987. Department biologists decide each year how many alligators may be taken from each area.

Commercial and sport alligator hunting licenses cost $25 for residents and $150 for non-resident sport hunters or landowners. Those hunters must either own the land where they’re hunting or have the landowner’s written permission. There’s no charge for the tags that must be attached to an alligator to show it was legally killed.

Applicants for a lottery hunt pay $5. Winners also must buy a $25 alligator hunting license and pay about $40 for each tag. Lottery rules give preference to applicants who have never won a lottery hunt.

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Online: http://www.wlf.louisiana.gov/wildlife/alligator-hunting