JACKSON COUNTY, MS (WLOX) - The 2013 alligator season in Mississippi got off to a record breaking start last weekend. In fact, the Magnolia State record was set and broken again by a pair of monster gators caught near the Mississippi River and the South Delta area.
The opening weekend saw Beth Trammell of Madison and her crew break the old record of 697.5 pounds with a 723.5-pound gator. That mark was eclipsed two hours later by Dustin Bockman of Vicksburg at 727-pounds.
''I am not surprised one bit that the records were broken,'' said Ricky Flynt of the Mississippi Department of Wildlife, Fisheries and Parks in Jackson. ''And I will not be surprised if these records are not broken before the season is out. If not this year, it will be broken next year. We have some good gators in Mississippi and we have some good hunters, too.''
The permitted gator season ends at noon on Sept. 9. In terms of the most populated areas, Flynt all 82 counties are capable of housing gators. But it's the fertile Pascagoula River Basin which is considered one of the best hunting grounds, based on the fact the area produced the current length record of 13-feet and 6.5-inches in 2008 and the female record at 10-feet and 295.3-pounds.
''The Pascagoula River and the whole basin around Jackson County traditionally has been 25 percent of the state's population,'' said Flynt. ''It's one of the most pristine rivers in the United States and it's full of wading birds, waterfowl, gar, mullet and crab, which are part of the alligators diet.''
With 25 percent of the state's population living in Jackson County, Flynt said the overall population was estimated at 50,000 nearly 13 years ago. That means the Jackson County area alone was home to 12,500 gators. The state of Mississippi is currently looking at ways to get more accurate numbers.
''Back in the late 2000, it was estimated at 50,000 gators statewide,'' Flynt said. ''We are working right now on new resources for a better estimate. That estimate in 2000 wasn't with updated technology and there's no doubt we have more than 50,000 gators now.
''There's no way to accurately estimate the age either. You can't determine the age by length, weight or teeth. But we do know they are long lived animals and a 12-to-13 footer could be 30-to-50 years old.''