Officers busy with alligators
Wednesday, July 10, 2013 1:00 AM
State conservation officers spend their summers with a variety of tasks that include checking fishing licenses and making sure people are following the boating laws.
But in this area, dealing with alligators has become a top priority.
"We get complaints from people who have farm ponds and lakes," said Calvin Fulton, state administrator of training for the Mississippi Department of Wildlife, Parks and Fisheries. "The summer is the breeding season for alligators. There is a peaking order and the bigger gators put pressure on the small ones.
"Those gators will move on to a farm pond. And they are really not hurting anything. But people wake up one day and find a gator floating around in their pond, and they don't like it. So they call us."
Fulton said the number of conservation officers is down right now in East Mississippi. In fact, Neshoba and Kemper counties do not currently have an officer.
"We ask people to call us and give us a little time," Fulton said. "It may take us a little while but we will come out and move the gator for you."
Fulton said his officers will catch the gator and take him to an area away from people. He reminds the public that it is against the law to shoot an alligator but added that there will be an alligator season in this area late this year.
"There has been a lot of excitement about the alligator season," Fulton said. "There are around 900 permits and more than 16,000 people have applied."
If you happen to get a permit, don't think you will be off on an adventure like the TV show Swamp People.
"Remember, that is a program made for television," Fulton said. "We do it different in Mississippi."
Alligator hunters must go through a class before they receive a permit. And that permit allows them to harvest two gators; one of size and a smaller one.
Fulton said that information collected while moving a gator is passed on to state biologists.
Fulton said that he hopes his department can hire a new group of officers soon, but added that it will take a while before those people will be working the woods. There is 12 weeks of law enforcement training in the law enforcement academy. Then they got through another 12 weeks of training in the Wildlife department trainings.
Those who graduate from both programs will enter a mentoring program which puts the new officer with veteran offices for about a year.
"It a process," Fulton said. "But it helps us develop professional officers who know what they are doing and are prepared for what they run into in the field."
Fulton said his department just completed a boating safety program title Operation Dry Water. Officers were out in force from the Coast to North Mississippi, looking for violations and promoting boating safety. It covered two days during the July 4 weekend and resulted in 120 citations and six BUIs (Boating while intoxicated) tickets,
"Alcohol has no place on the water," Fulton said. "We tried to build awareness about boating safety and not drinking and trying go out on a boat."
Fulton noted there will be a couple of changes for the upcoming deer season.
During primitive weapons season, those hunting on private or leased lands may use their weapon of choice. And there is now a license to hunt with crossbows.
"Some of these changes have been coming for a while," Fulton said.