4 months ago

WFF reminds alligator hunters of no-cull regulation

With Alabama’s 2020 alligator season only a couple of weeks away, the Alabama Wildlife and Freshwater Fisheries (WFF) Division wants to remind those lucky tag holders about the no-cull rule in effect.

With the exception of the Lake Eufaula Zone, tag holders are not allowed to release an alligator after it has been captured. The exception for the Lake Eufaula Zone is because it is the only zone that has a minimum size length, which is 8 feet total length. In this zone, only alligators that are under 8 feet in length may be released after capture. In all other zones, culling is completely prohibited.

“Many folks who have been going to classes for years and are now getting the training online understand about culling,” said WFF Director Chuck Sykes. “However, I think some hunters have abused our leniency in enforcing the regulation. We just want to make sure that everybody is aware that culling is not a legal practice. This is not a fishing trip where you practice catch-and-release. This is a cold-blooded animal that expends a great deal of energy during the fight and that could end up as an unexpected mortality. When you have 5,000 or so people apply for one of these coveted tags, we don’t want people abusing the process and making it look like a catch-and-release fishing tournament. We just wanted to clarify that culling is not allowed.”

Wildlife Section Chief Keith Gauldin said this regulation has been in effect since Alabama’s 2018 alligator season.

“Just as you don’t capture and release any other game animal, hunters are not allowed to practice releasing alligators unless they are hunting in the Lake Eufaula Zone, where there is a minimum harvest length of 8 feet,” Gauldin said. “A captured gator is your gator, so be sure to review the training videos on the website. The videos give you helpful tips on how to judge the size of an alligator.”

Gauldin said there is a direct correlation between the distance from the gator’s nostrils to its eyes and the total length of the animal. If the distance from the nostrils to the eyes is 10 inches, the estimated total length of the alligator would be 10 feet. Visit www.outdooralabama.com/alligator-hunt-tag-training-videos for the six training videos and one that explains the no-cull regulation.

Tag holders must abide by the rule that applies when an alligator is “captured.”

“In the past, we have seen individuals on social media posting alligators that they have captured, taken pictures of and then released,” Gauldin said “We don’t want hunters to cause any undue stress on these animals. By regulation, an alligator is considered captured once it is secured with a snare around a leg or the head and is secured boat-side and in control. It must be immediately dispatched and the temporary tag applied. We want to stress that before hunters pursue an alligator and throw a hook at it or any of the legal means of catching an alligator, they should view that gator and estimate its size closely. They need to make sure that’s the one they want to harvest.”

Gauldin said another rule that will be closely enforced has to do with boats providing assistance during the pursuit of an alligator.

“When hunting parties have multiple vessels involved, only the boat with the tag holder can have the capture equipment in it,” he said. “The other vessels that are assisting can only have spotlights but no capture equipment.”

Capture methods are restricted to hand-held snares, snatch hooks (hand-held or rod/reel), harpoons (with attached line), and bowfishing equipment (with line attached from arrow to bow or crossbow). The use of bait is not allowed.

Gauldin said the WFF’s Enforcement Section will be out in full force during the alligator season to ensure the regulations are followed.

“There is a high likelihood hunters will be checked by a Conservation Enforcement Officer at least on one of the nights of the season,” he said. “It’s a good idea to put all of your identification, hunting license and alligator tag in a Ziploc bag for easy access instead of having to dig it out of your wallet at one o’clock in the morning. Have that ready for presentation when you get checked. It will make it easier for our officers and make for a more timely check for the hunters.”

Gauldin also wants hunters to refrain from consuming alcohol during the hunts.

“We want hunters to have a good time but a safe time,” he said. “Combining alcohol and alligator hunting is not a good idea. And make sure everyone has a PFD (personal flotation device). It’s a good idea to have that PFD on if the boat is under throttle, especially at night. Obstructions are much harder to see at night. We just want them to have a safe hunt.”

The Alabama alligator season is broken into five zones throughout south Alabama, the traditional range of alligators in the state.

The zone where Alabama’s first season originated is the Southwest Zone, which has the most tags (100). The Southwest Zone includes all of Mobile and Baldwin counties north of I-10 and private and public waters in Washington, Clarke and Monroe counties that lie east of U.S. Highway 43 and south of U.S. Highway 84. The 2020 season dates are sunset on August 13 until sunrise on August 16 and sunset on August 20 to sunrise on August 23.

The Coastal Zone (50 tags) was created last year to address the rising interaction between alligators and the human population along the Coast, where WFF receives most of its nuisance alligator complaints. The Coastal Zone includes the private and public waters in Baldwin and Mobile counties that lie south of I-10. The 2020 season dates are the same as the Southwest Zone.

The Southeast Zone (40 tags) covers the private and public waters in Barbour, Coffee, Covington, Dale, Geneva, Henry, Houston, and Russell counties, excluding Alabama state public waters in Walter F. George Reservoir (Lake Eufaula) and its navigable tributaries. The 2020 season dates are sunset on August 8 until sunrise on September 7.

The West Central Zone (50 tags) includes private and public waters in Monroe (north of U.S. Highway 84), Wilcox, and Dallas counties. The 2020 season dates are sunset on August 13 to sunrise on August 16 and sunset on August 20 to sunrise on August 23.

The Lake Eufaula Zone (20 tags) includes Alabama state public waters in Walter F. George Reservoir (Lake Eufaula) and its navigable tributaries, south of Highway 208, Omaha Bridge (excluding Eufaula National Wildlife Refuge). The 2020 season dates are sunset on August 14 until sunrise on October 5. The Lake Eufaula Zone is the only zone that allows daytime hunting.

Alabama’s alligator harvest numbers have been consistent at between 65 and 70 percent of the available tags since the program’s inception.

And one never knows when another monster gator will be hauled in that rivals the current world record of 15 feet, 9 inches and 1,011.5 pounds that was harvested in 2014 by Mandy Stokes of Camden.

David Rainer is an award-winning writer who has covered Alabama’s great outdoors for 25 years. The former outdoors editor at the Mobile Press-Register, he writes for Outdoor Alabama, the website of the Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources.

12 hours ago

Tomorrow is officially Small Business Saturday in Alabama

Governor Kay Ivey (R-AL) has formally proclaimed November 28, 2020, to be Small Business Saturday.

The proclamation issued by Ivey stressed that “the state of Alabama believes that small businesses are the backbone of our economy and the glue that holds communities together.”

Ivey subsequently recognized that small businesses comprise 99.4% of businesses in the Yellowhammer State, employing 48.1% of the private workforce.

“Alabama supports our local small businesses that create jobs, boost our local economy and preserve our neighborhoods,” the governor wrote.

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The proclamation concluded by asking residents to support small businesses this Saturday, as well as throughout the year. Small businesses have been hit hard by the COVID-19 pandemic.

RELATED: Why Small Business Saturday really matters in 2020

This year’s Small Business Saturday comes amid the Keep Alabama Open campaign.

Ivey recently pledged, “I will not shut down businesses; the business community certainly has my support. As I’ve said many times, you cannot have a life without a livelihood.”

Sean Ross is the editor of Yellowhammer News. You can follow him on Twitter @sean_yhn

13 hours ago

Alabama, Auburn students participate in third annual Operation Iron Ruck to support veterans

Not even the COVID-19 pandemic could stop members of the University of Alabama Campus Veterans Association and Auburn University Student Veterans Association from holding the third annual Operation Iron Ruck, an initiative to bring awareness to the rash of veteran suicides in America.

Beginning Wednesday and culminating ahead of Saturday’s Iron Bowl, participants from the two schools are marching with each other from Auburn to Tuscaloosa’s Bryant-Denny Stadium, where this year’s game will be played.

During the trip, each student veteran will hike approximately 50 miles total. The participants walk for 2 ½ hours consecutively before climbing into a support vehicle for about five hours of rest before their next hike. The trip is about 151 miles long and takes approximately three days to complete.

Operation Iron Ruck supports Mission 22, a veteran suicide campaign recognizing that 22 veterans die by suicide daily across the nation.

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To bring attention to this statistic, student veterans from UA and Auburn this year are each carrying 22 pounds of materials in their rucksacks to be donated to Three Hots and a Cot, a Birmingham-based nonprofit organization that assists homeless military veterans transition from life on the streets into a self-sustained lifestyle.

“Veteran suicide is a serious issue in the veteran community,” commented Ben Shewmake, president of the UA Campus Veterans Association. “The loss of camaraderie, along with service-related problems leave some believing their only way to fix their issues is to end their life. This can be attributed to some people not transitioning back into society, sexual assault issues, family problems and military-related illnesses.”

“The awareness is not to say, ‘hey this is happening,’ but more to tell the ones who are thinking about it that there are people who care and are here if they reach out,” Shewmake added. “There is also a newer message that is popping up that is to tell everyone to keep in touch with their former colleagues and that one random text or call to someone may keep them from committing suicide and no one will probably ever know that. It’s as much to tell those who may be struggling that people care as it is to tell the people who care to reach out rather than wait on being reached out to.”

This initiative has attracted widespread support, including when Governor Kay Ivey last year offered her backing of the program and even formally declared Operation Iron Ruck Day in the state of Alabama.

“Since our country’s inception, our military members have shown their patriotism, their bravery, and ultimately, their willingness to lay their lives on the line for the sake of protecting our freedoms. That sacrifice does not end in combat, because even when our men and women return safely home, many continue to struggle with the impacts of war,” Ivey said in 2019.

“Sadly, in our country, suicide claims the lives of around 22 veterans each day. I urge Alabamians and people all across our country to continue fighting for those who fight for us. I am proud to see this committed group of students from Alabama and Auburn come together to bring awareness to this issue facing veterans in our country,” the governor concluded.

If you are experiencing suicidal thoughts or have concerns about someone else who potentially is doing so, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255). You will be routed to a local crisis center where professionals can talk you through a risk assessment and provide resources in your community.

Additionally, veterans and service members, as well as their loved ones, can call the Veterans Crisis Line and Military Crisis Line to connect with qualified, caring U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs responders through a confidential toll-free hotline (1-800-273-8255, Press 1).

Sean Ross is the editor of Yellowhammer News. You can follow him on Twitter @sean_yhn

14 hours ago

Alabama’s game against LSU rescheduled for Saturday, December 5

The University of Alabama Crimson Tide’s game against LSU, which was originally scheduled for November 14, will reportedly be rescheduled to Saturday, December 5.

The game was postponed earlier this month because of positive COVID-19 test results and subsequent contact tracing within the LSU football program.

It had since become doubtful that the game would be rescheduled, as LSU already has a make-up game against Florida scheduled for December 12, the designated weekend set aside by the SEC for games postponed due to coronavirus protocols.

Yahoo Sport’s Pete Thamel on Friday was the first to report that the SEC plans to readjust the remaining regular season schedule to allow Alabama to play LSU — the defending national champions — this season.

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It is expected now that Alabama will travel to play LSU in Baton Rouge next weekend.

Alabama’s game at Arkansas, originally scheduled for December 5, will thus be pushed back to December 12.

The SEC Championship Game will be December 19.

It has been reported that this planned schedule adjustment by the SEC is contingent on this weekend’s relevant games not being postponed.

The Tide face Auburn in the Iron Bowl at 2:30 p.m. this Saturday. Head coach Nick Saban will not be on the sideline due to a positive COVID-19 test result on Wednesday.

UPDATE 2:50 p.m.

The SEC confirmed the schedule change.

Alabama at LSU will now be played December 5 at 7:00 p.m., and CBS will broadcast the game.

“The cooperation and flexibility of our coaches, athletics directors and campus leaders along with the dedication of our student-athletes now provides the opportunity to reach this point in the season with the ability for each SEC team to play ten football games in 2020,” stated SEC Commissioner Greg Sankey. “We knew before the season there would be interruptions and scheduling challenges related to COVID-19 and we will continue to manage the remaining weeks of the football schedule to allow for as many games to be played as possible, with a continuing focus on determining an SEC champion.”

Sean Ross is the editor of Yellowhammer News. You can follow him on Twitter @sean_yhn

16 hours ago

Lockheed Martin completes acquisition of Huntsville company’s hypersonics portfolio, boosting Alabama-based national security work

Lockheed Martin this week announced it has closed on the acquisition of Huntsville-based Integration Innovation Inc.’s (i3) hypersonics portfolio.

Terms of acquiring this portion of the Rocket City software and systems engineering company were not disclosed.

A release advised that the acquisition expands Lockheed’s capabilities to design, develop and produce integrated hypersonic weapon systems for its customers.

Lockheed’s hypersonics program is based in Courtland, Alabama, which is less than an hour away from Huntsville.

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“Our customers require the most forward-thinking, advanced technology that anticipates and addresses their national security requirements. This business combination not only reinforces our commitment to their missions, but also expands our portfolio in a strategic way,” stated Eric Scherff, vice president of Hypersonic Strike Programs at Lockheed. “Combining i3’s talent and domain expertise with our shared vision for hypersonic strike will expand how we think about and deliver this critical capability to the warfighter across domains.”

Mike Wicks, the former CEO of i3, has been named vice president of the Hypersonic Engineering & Accelerated Technologies program within the Hypersonic Strike Portfolio for Lockheed Martin Space.

“We’re proud to be a part of the Lockheed Martin family, as they are a technology authority and employ some of the best and brightest in the industry,” said Wicks. “We have invested much time and energy into developing strategic solutions at i3. And, we’re finding the need to synergize these offerings with Lockheed Martin is more timely than ever and unlocks the value to our joint customers.”

The U.S. Army last year awarded Lockheed a $347 million contract to serve as its Long Range Hypersonic Weapon (LRHW) prototype system integrator.

In addition to much of this work being conducted in Lawrence County, Lockheed chose Huntsville-based Dynetics (now a Leidos company) to work on this project, developing launchers with hydraulics, outriggers, power generation and distribution for the ground platform. Dynetics will further provide flight test and training support. Moreover, i3 was named as a part of that Lockheed-led LRHW team.

Separately, Dynetics Technical Solutions last year was also awarded an Army contract in the amount of $351.6 million to produce Common-Hypersonic Glide Body (C-HGB) prototypes in Huntsville. In turn, Dynetics selected Lockheed as a subcontractor on this project.

Both contracts are part of the Army’s work to advance the fielding of a prototype hypersonic weapon by Fiscal Year 2023 and transition the development of Army hypersonic capabilities out of government laboratories and into commercial production.

Beyond North Alabama’s private sector expertise in hypersonics, this collaboration is administered by the Army Hypersonic Project Office, part of the Army Rapid Capabilities and Critical Technologies Office (RCCTO), which is headquartered at Huntsville’s Redstone Arsenal.

The C-HGB is intended for use by not just the Army but also the Navy and the Missile Defense Agency, which is anchored in Huntsville.

Hypersonic Strike capabilities have been identified by the federal government as a critical capability that must be addressed in support of the U.S. National Security Strategy. Hypersonic weapons are unique in that they are capable of flying at five times the speed of sound and operate at varying altitudes.

U.S. Senator Richard C. Shelby (R-AL) has been a key supporter of hypersonics programs, including in his roles as chairman of the Senate Committee on Appropriations and its Subcommittee on Defense.

Sean Ross is the editor of Yellowhammer News. You can follow him on Twitter @sean_yhn

17 hours ago

Birmingham’s Regions Center once again lighting up ahead of Christmas

Regions Bank’s iconic headquarters tower in Birmingham will once again be transformed into a beautiful holiday lights display starting on Friday.

This is an annual Magic City hallmark going back to the late 1970s.

Each year, red, green and white lights installed above the windows surrounding the 30-story tower are illuminated in the forms of Christmas trees, a massive wreath and a giant stocking.

The lights come on just before sunset each evening beginning the day after Thanksgiving, and the nightly display continues until January 1.

“The lighting of the Regions Center is a tradition going back more than 40 years, and Regions Bank is proud to keep the tradition alive, especially during a year in which so much has changed,” stated Joe Holcombe, senior facilities project manager in Regions’ Corporate Real Estate division.

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“In recent weeks, crews have been installing and testing lights, working hard to get Birmingham’s tallest holiday display ready for the season,” he continued. “As the lights come on this evening, we wish everyone a happy holiday season and a brighter new year to come.”

The Regions Center tower rises nearly 400 feet over 5th Avenue North at 20th Street North in downtown Birmingham.

While some of the best views are from Railroad Park or from Vulcan Park on Red Mountain, the customary lights are visible across the city, including to travelers on nearby Interstate highways and planes landing at the Birmingham-Shuttlesworth International Airport.

Emilio Cerice, senior vice president of Corporate Real Estate for Regions Bank, said in a statement last year, “It’s something we look forward to every year – and it’s something the city looks forward to. In recent years, it’s been fun to watch social media and see people sharing creative photos of the building or sharing their memories of coming downtown to see the lights.”

In addition to this annual seasonal display, the Regions Center has also been illuminated to celebrate the Regions Tradition golf tournament, as well as the 1996 Summer Olympics (when Birmingham hosted Olympic soccer games) and in a patriotic display to support American troops during the Gulf War in 1991.

“Birmingham is our headquarters city. We’re proud to occupy a prominent spot in the city’s skyline,” Cerice added. “And we’re proud to carry on this tradition.”

You can read more about the history of the tradition and the process of displaying the lights here.

Sean Ross is the editor of Yellowhammer News. You can follow him on Twitter @sean_yhn