Alligator hunters have landed a colossal 14-foot kill which has been described as a “once-in-a-lifetime” catch.
In the US, alligators tend to average about 11 feet long but pals at a four-day hunting event in Texas, US earlier this month, found no average reptile
The Texas Parks and Wildlife Department monitored gator poachers at James E. Daughtrey Wildlife Management Area between between September 12 and 16.
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Several other alligators killed during the same hunt were around 13 feet long, and photos displayed by the hunters on Facebook show the huge reptiles – some weighing over 50 stone – being lifted with fork-lift trucks.
The animals are supposedly culled for population control purposes but also for commercial reasons as their skins are prized by handbag and shoes manufacturers.
Some say that the hunting of these creatures, whose lineage dates back over 30 million years, is cruel and unnecessary.
After being harpooned or hooked, alligator is commonly dragged behind a boat until it is exhausted – the suffering animal often fights to escape for more than an hour.
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Hunters describe how, upon firing this device “blood colours the water a cloudy red.”
“Regulations state that alligators must be killed before being dragged into a boat,” says the Animal Rights Foundation of Florida, “but the improper placement and discharge of the bangstick frequently renders the alligator only temporarily unconscious.
The organisation adds that “Without having the spinal cord severed and the brain destroyed, the alligator is left to suffer long after being pulled from the water”.
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Because of the difficulty of humanely killing an alligator, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission advises hunters, “Never assume an alligator is dead.”
One alligator trapper said he had seen hunters showing up at processing facilities after a hunt with alligators who were severely injured but still alive.
Left undisturbed, alligators can live almost as long as humans and on average will reach the age of about 70. Some have been known to reach 100 years of age.
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But in Florida, alligators are not only hunted, but forced to take part in cruel “wrestling matches”.
Captured gators are deliberately provoked for the amusement of a watching crowd. The creature is dragged by its tail into the centre of an arena where it is kicked or beaten with a stick until it opens its mouth, in order for the onlookers to see its teeth.
Alligator wrestlers will then often jump onto the alligator’s back, or force the mouth closed and attempt to flip the animal.
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This can cut off circulation to the creature's brain, and the show ends with the overturned alligator losing consciousness.
In May 2010, a wrestler was bitten by an alligator during a show, and needed 36 staples and 23 stitches to close severe wounds on his arm and hand.
In an interview with the St. Petersburg Times following the incident, the wrestler explained that unless the alligators are provoked into showing aggression during a show, the audience loses interest.
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