Gator hunting inside Loxahatchee Wildlife Refuge is drawing hunters and criticism from activists

SUBURBAN BOYNTON BEACH, Fla. - When the sun begins to dip below the horizon on Friday evening, for the first time hunters will be allowed to kill alligators inside the Arthur R. Marshall Loxahatchee National Wildlife Refuge.

Decades have gone by without any gators being hunted inside the grounds. Now, 11 hunters will get the chance to kill two gators each starting Friday night.

“The largest gators in the state of Florida live right there. So I would love the opportunity to go hunt them,” said Robert Arrington, a Jupiter-based gator hunter.

Hunting inside the Arthur R. Marshall Loxahatchee National Wildlife Refuge might be a dream of many hunters, but it is a nightmare for many animal rights activists who question the need to hunt gators inside a wildlife refuge.

“The idea of holding an alligator hunt is actually a success story,“ said Tom MacKenzie, a spokesperson for the southeast division of U.S. Fish and Wildlife.

MacKenzie said they have done research, tracked populations and said hunting is actually a requirement of a federal refuge.

Florida Fish and Wildlife Officer Amanda Phillips said there is also the issue of safety.
    
“We don’t want to get into that particular situation where we have an abundance of alligators. That wouldn’t be good for the general public,” said Phillips.

Hunters like Arrington said since zero gators have been hunted inside the Arthur R. Marshall Loxahatchee National Wildlife Refuge, some of the biggest alligators in the world probably live inside the grounds.

“If you got one of those tags, I envy you,” said Arrington.

Animal Rights Foundation of Florida is planning a protest at 5:30 p.m. Friday at the southern entrance of the Arthur R. Marshall Loxahatchee National Wildlife Refuge.

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