Mississippi hunters report record-breaking alligator that may be 100 years old

The Pearl River flood allowed two Mississippi men to harvest an alligator that had eluded hunters for years and break the state record for longest female alligator.

He is an alligator known as Yellow 410. He was tagged in 2009 and could be between 75 and 100 years old.

It was the first alligator hunting season for Madison brothers Jim and Richie Denson and it didn’t start well.

“We probably launched five or six on Friday and couldn’t connect,” Richie said. “We just didn’t know what we were doing.”

Saturday didn’t work out any better, but their luck changed on Sunday.

“I was actually in my living room watching TV and my fishing partner, who was fishing with his wife, called me,” Jim said.

Jim’s fishing partner was in a backwater lake that is upstream at the Ross Barnett Reservoir. This is an area that is generally inaccessible to anglers, but the flooding of the Pearl River has allowed access by clearing away the carpets of vegetation that previously smothered it.

“My fishing partner had never been able to get into that lake,” Jim said. “So he went fishing there and his wife said, ‘Mike, there’s an alligator.

“He looked at it for about 10 minutes and called me. He said he was about 10 feet long.”

Jim got his boat and gear ready and he and Richie went to the reservoir to try again.

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Frustrated Alligator Hunters

“It took us just an hour from when he called me to when I arrived,” Jim said. “We started talking quietly and the alligator swam out.”

The brothers decided to get closer to the alligator so they could catch it with rods and reels, but there was a problem with the trolling motor and it was making noise. Even so, the alligator didn’t seem nervous and didn’t overwhelm, so the two were able to get closer to launch distance.

The situation seemed good – for a minute.

“We made two enthusiastic throws and threw ourselves at it,” Jim said. “She sank. We were disgusted.”

Another alligator arrived soon after, however. Both Jim and Richie hooked it, but the hooks came loose and their lines got tangled in the process.

Frustration was mounting.

“I told my brother Richie that I was ready to burn those labels and quit,” Jim said.

It may have seemed like a good idea at the time, but it wasn’t and they didn’t. Shortly after, the large alligator reappeared.

“I logged in and Richie missed something,” Jim said. “She towed us about 20 to 30 feet and sat on the bottom.”

Jim Denson (left), MDWFP Alligator Program Coordinator Ricky Flynt (center) and Richie Denson are pictured with an alligator captured by the Densons which not only sets a new state record for the most female alligator long, it could be 100 years old.

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Alligator goes “completely crazy”

Richie grabbed the alligator with a handline and the alligator became a bit more active.

“She just went absolutely crazy,” Jim said. “She did a death roll and wrapped the rod around her three times and broke the rod.”

Meanwhile, Richie had his own issues. He was caught in the hand line.

“I looked down and it was on my finger,” Richie said. “The rope got tangled around my finger. It was scary for a while.”

Jim was able to run a cable around the animal, which was tangled in line, rope and a broken rod, and tie it up and ship it off.

“How we got it, I don’t know,” Richie said. “It was a big, old mess. It was chaotic. It was crazy for a few minutes.”

When things calmed down, Richie noticed the alligator was marked. The tags were old and hard to read, but they could see that the yellow tag had 410 printed on it.

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A world class alligator

When they arrived at Red Antler Processing in Yazoo City, they made another discovery; she was a woman over 10 feet tall, which could be a state record for the longest woman.

Mississippi Department of Wildlife, Fisheries and Parks Alligator Program Coordinator Ricky Flynt was called. It was an alligator he knew very well. He captured and tagged her in 2009.

At the time, she was 10 feet 2 inches long, which tied her for the longest wild female alligator on record. She has since lost that title to a 10ft, 6.75in female captured in Florida last year.

Amazingly, Yellow 410 was the same length as 2009. She hadn’t grown an inch since then, but she is officially the state record for the longest woman.

In weight, she seemed to be on the decline. Flynt said she had lost 5 inches in belly girth and 1 inch in tail girth since 2009. She weighed just 193 pounds. For comparison, the previous longest female state record was 10 feet tall and weighed 319 pounds.

Flynt also said the alligator was harvested from the same area where she was originally captured.

“It was less than 100 yards from where I tagged it,” Flynt said. “I thought she wasn’t going far.”

Alligator could be 100 years old

According to Flynt, females grow more slowly than males and are much smaller. For it to reach 10 feet, 2 inches would take over 60 years according to his calculations. He based this calculation on the alligator growing 2 inches per year, which he says is a liberal estimate for a female. Then there’s the fact that she’s maintained that length for at least 13 years.

This provided enlightening information about her.

“It’s certainly conceivable that this alligator could be between 75 and 100 years old,” Flynt said. “I don’t think anyone can argue with that.”

According to the MDWFP, more than 800 alligators have been captured and tagged in Mississippi since 2007. Flynt said the recapture of these alligators provides valuable information about the species.

“There’s so much we don’t know about alligators in the wild,” Flynt said. “Fortunately, in this situation, we have information for 13 years of his life.

“That was the whole point of the program – to get that data. We’re always learning about wildlife and there are surprises. I would say that was one of them.”

Contact Brian Broom at 601-961-7225 or [email protected]

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