Braxton Bielski, an 18 year old Texas high school senior, has captured the largest gator ever certified in the state. The 800 pound behemoth was bagged in the Choke Canyon Reservoir, where gator hunters are issued hunting permits to keep gator populations in check.
For Braxton, it was the fulfillment of a long-held dream. “He’s wanted to hunt alligators for years,” said his father Troy, who would enter a yearly raffle to win gator hunting permits for him and his son.
American alligators were once an endangered species, but after extensive conservation efforts are now listed by the IUCN as Least Concern. Populations have exploded across their natural habitat, and now need to be controlled through seasonal hunts and culling. They are one of the most successful examples of a once-endangered species completely rebounding.
They are the apex predator in their range, successful hunters who feast on mammals, birds, snakes, fish, and amphibians. Often referred to as “living dinosaurs”, their presence is intimidating and commands respect. Males can grow anywhere from 11 to 15 ft. and weigh as much as 1,000 pounds. The largest alligator ever recorded was supposedly 19 ft. long, weighing over 2,000 pounds.