On Aug. 28, 2022, a new state record for the longest female alligator was taken by two Mississippi alligator hunters, Jim Denson and Richie Denson, of Madison, Mississippi. The alligator was killed on the Pearl River about 5 miles north of Ross Barnett Reservoir and measured 10 feet 2 inches long. According to Ricky Flynt, Alligator Program Coordinator for the Mississippi Department of Wildlife, Fisheries, and Parks (MDWFP), this state record also ties a previous world record for the longest free-ranging wild female alligator, which was measured in the state of Florida in 1984. That record was recently broken in Florida in 2021 with a female alligator that measured 10 feet 6.75 inches.
Additionally, the alligator had been previously captured and tagged as “Yellow 410” by the MDWFP in 2009. Flynt reports, “We tagged this alligator on June 11, 2009 as part of a research project. At that time, the alligator also measured exactly 10 feet 2 inches and was captured within 100 yards of where the Densons killed the record alligator.”
The goal of the research project is to obtain biological measurements and location information in hopes that alligator hunters may one day recapture or harvest previously tagged alligators in order to learn more about alligator movements and growth rates.
Since 2007, over 800 alligators have been captured and tagged in Mississippi. There have been dozens of hunter-reported recaptures since 2007 and the data obtained is like none other found in the nation. Flynt says, “Each recapture provides us with interesting data that no other states are obtaining. I am very proud of what we are learning. This is just another example of the value of hunters and hunting to wildlife biologists and wildlife conservation. Much of what biologists know about many species across the world came from similar mark-recapture projects involving hunter harvest data.
We know that alligators are very long-lived, but there are no reliable methods to determine the age of a live alligator. Flynt says, “There are known-age female alligators that have been in captivity for over 35 years in a controlled environment and have only grown to about eight feet long. We have no idea how old Yellow 410 was when it was captured and tagged in 2009, but we do know that over the next 14 years it did not grow even one inch. We have also learned from our research that there are great differences in growth among individual alligators. We have learned that females typically have much slower growth rates (less than two inches per year) while males typically grow faster and can grow as much as 8-12 inches in one year. We also know growth of individuals can vary greatly from one year to the next. Given that knowledge and what we have learned from tagged alligators in the wild, it is entirely possible that this record alligator could easily be as much as 75-100 years old. This is definitely a world class alligator specimen.”
The 2022 Public Waters Alligator Hunting Season opened in Mississippi Friday, Aug. 26, at noon and will close at noon on Monday, Sept. 5.