Mississippi’s alligator hunting season and permit process will undergo its biggest change in its 10-year history, under a plan approved Wednesday by the Commission on Wildlife, Fisheries and Parks.

Once the plan receives final approval and is posted by the Secretary of State, the 920 permits will be available on a first-in, first-serve basis through an online-only system open only to Mississippi residents with a hunting/fishing license. 

The electronic process is scheduled for 9 a.m. on July 14, and each hunter can purchase only one permit per year. The cost of each permit, which is good for two alligators — 4-foot minimum length, and only one can exceed 7 feet — during the 10-day season Aug. 28-Sept. 6, has risen to $150.

Asked how long the electronic drawing process would take to sell the 920 permits, alligator program coordinator Ricky Flynt told the five-man Commission: “About three hours.”

Once the permits for each specific region are exhausted, that area will be closed and users will be directed back to the main screen to choose another region. After all the zones are filled, then the process will close.

In 2014, nearly 25,000 people applied for the 920 permits in the seven regions. There was no cost to apply. The previous process saw about 25 to 30 percent of the permits never used.

“We simply eliminated the application step,” Flynt said. “When we open the process, hunters will have to commit to paying for the $150 permit at that time. That will be a limiting factor in itself. In the past we’d have people get everybody in their family and all their friends to apply to increase their odds of getting drawn.

“What happened a lot of times is that somebody would get Aunt Rosie to enter, she’d get drawn and when she would find out that she had to go to alligator hunting class and be in the boat, well Aunt Rosie would say, ‘I’m out.’”

For the first time, permit holders will not be required to attend an alligator hunting class. Flynt said that at this point, after 10 years, most of the hunters have already attended, or will hunt with somebody who has.

That assured the inquisitive Commission that the change was OK. When the panel asked if 10 years of hunting, which began only on Barnett Reservoir in 2005 and now has expanded statewide, has hurt the population, Flynt had a short answer.

“Maybe one percent of the total adult population,” he said.