LITTLE ROCK, Ark – Today marks the start of a 5-day period to apply for an Arkansas alligator hunt permit.

Alligator season in Arkansas runs from September 16 to 19 and September 23 to 26.

The permit application period, which runs from 8 a.m. June 15 to midnight June 30, is for applications at the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission’s website. Applicants must choose one of the six hunt locations within two of the three Arkansas Alligator Management Zones. Forty-three permits are available.

Permits cover Alligator Management Zone 1 with 22 permits and 3 with 21 permits. Zone 2 does not have a public draw, but is part of a private land hunt, regulated by a quota system.

Zone 1 allows 12 permits for Millwood Lake, four for Dr. Lester Sitzes III Bois D’Arc Lake, five for Little River Wildlife Management Area and one permit for Sulphur River Wildlife Management Area.

Zone 3 has 23 permits for Lower Arkansas Wetland Complex (Arkansas River backwaters near Arkansas Post).

With a permit, a hunter may harvest one alligator at least 4 feet long. The hunt may begin 30 minutes after sunset until 30 minutes before sunrise. You can have three helpers, but only the permit-holder may snare, harpoon, or kill the alligator.

You must be 16 years old to hunt an alligator, and only Arkansas residents or Arkansas Lifetime Sportsman permit-holder may apply for an alligator hunt permit. If you have 18 or more Arkansas Game and Fish violation points you may not apply for a permit.

If you can access private land for hunting in Zones 1, 2, or 3 you may purchase an alligator tag to go with your big-game hunting license and hunt until the quota is met in a Zone. Before hunting on private land, the hunter must call the wildlife hotline at 1-800-440-1477 and find out if the quota for that zone has been met. If it has been, the hunt ends early.

If you have an alligator hunt permit or will be alligator hunting on private land you must go through an online hunt orientation before going out on a hunt. There you will learn important details and hear the frequently asked questions for alligator hunters.

Arkansas Game and Fish began regulating alligator hunting in 1961, after a variety of factors, including unregulated hunting, led to an all-time low in the state alligator population. Between 1972 and 1984 2,841 alligators sourced from Louisiana were released for restocking by the agency. Since 1984 the population has grown enough to support regulated sport hunting.

Alligators preferred habitat is shallow water marsh and swamp, leading to alligator population concentrations in the southwest and southeast corners of the state. They are most active at night.

If you are not hunting, the safest thing is to avoid getting too close to an alligator, 20 feet or more. If you get too close to an alligator, you will hear it hiss. That’s a signal to back away slowly. Alligators avoid humans and are not typically aggressive and will retreat. They are fast, but only for short distances, so back away in a straight line.