Flynt: Gators once nearly extinct

Published 12:15 am Sunday, February 23, 2014

Robert Rhett relaxes in a hammock at the Sierra Madre Research booth Saturday afternoon during the Warren County Wildlife and Outdoor Expo at the Vicksburg Convention Center. (Justin Sellers/ Vicksburg Post)

Robert Rhett relaxes in a hammock at the Sierra Madre Research booth Saturday afternoon during the Warren County Wildlife and Outdoor Expo at the Vicksburg Convention Center. (Justin Sellers/ Vicksburg Post)

Ricky Flynt, of the Mississippi Department of Wildlife, Fisheries and Parks, speaks about alligators Saturday afternoon during the Warren County Wildlife and Outdoor Expo at the Vicksburg Convention Center. (Justin Sellers/ Vicksburg Post)

Ricky Flynt, of the Mississippi Department of Wildlife, Fisheries and Parks, speaks about alligators Saturday afternoon during the Warren County Wildlife and Outdoor Expo at the Vicksburg Convention Center. (Justin Sellers/ Vicksburg Post)

Payton Pettway, 5, gets bowfishing instruction by Dan Prevost of the Bowfishing Association of Mississippi Saturday afternoon during the Warren County Wildlife and Outdoor Expo at the Vicksburg Convention Center. (Justin Sellers/ Vicksburg Post)

Payton Pettway, 5, gets bowfishing instruction by Dan Prevost of the Bowfishing Association of Mississippi Saturday afternoon during the Warren County Wildlife and Outdoor Expo at the Vicksburg Convention Center. (Justin Sellers/ Vicksburg Post)

Caleb Fielder, 11, practices bowfishing on a gar target Saturday afternoon during the Warren County Wildlife and Outdoor Expo at the Vicksburg Convention Center. (Justin Sellers/ Vicksburg Post)

Caleb Fielder, 11, practices bowfishing on a gar target Saturday afternoon during the Warren County Wildlife and Outdoor Expo at the Vicksburg Convention Center. (Justin Sellers/ Vicksburg Post)

The state’s thriving alligator population that drew national attention after record gators were killed back-to-back-to-back in September was once teetering on the verge of extension.

Alligators were considered an endangered species in Mississippi from 1967 until 1987, Ricky Flynt, alligator program director for the Mississippi Department of Wildlife, Fisheries and Parks told the crowd gathered at the Warren County Wildlife and Outdoor Expo on Saturday at Vicksburg Convention Center.

They became endangered because of over hunting at the turn of the 20th century, he said.

“There were no regulations or wildlife agencies to protect the resources,” Flynt said.

To help increase the gator population in Mississippi, the animals were imported from Louisiana from 1972 to 1975, he said. The department of wildlife gave the alligators away as an experimental form of controlling nuisance beavers, he said.

“As a landowner, you could pick up a Kroger sack full of alligators and take them back to your property,” Flynt said.

Mississippi alligators gained worldwide attention last September when brothers Dustin and Ryan Bockman and their friend Cole Landers, all of Warren County, caught a 727-pound alligator in the Mississippi River near Port Gibson, breaking a record that was only a few hours old.

The record didn’t last long though, as a group of hunters caught a 741.5-gator the next week.

Flynt also stressed the importance of safety around the large reptiles. Most alligator attacks are because people are feeding the wild animals, he said.

“You should always keep your distance. It’s good to make noise to let them know of your presence,” he said.

Florida native and alligator tracker Scott Porter thought that Flynt’s history and advice was on point.

“I really enjoyed it. I was familiar with some of the things that he talked about. It was very educational and informative. I had a great time,” said Porter.

Vicksburg native Terry Baldridge didn’t know anything about alligators before Flynt’s presentation. He left the presentation with some new and exciting information.

“I enjoyed seeing this because this is something that you don’t usually get to learn about. It was exciting,” said Baldridge.

The Warren County Wildlife and Outdoor Expo, sponsored by the Warren County Baptist Association, is in its third year. The all-day event featured more than 30 vendors and displays in addition to several five seminars.