‘It’s an honor, I’m blessed,’ says new Mississippi Alligator man

Published 8:00 am Wednesday, May 17, 2023

BROOKHAVEN — Mississippi Department of Wildlife, Fisheries and Parks named Andrew Arnett the next director of Mississippi’s Alligator Program. He previously served as a game warden in Southwest Mississippi working in the Homochitto National Forest and has worked in the wildlife and law enforcement bureaus in his time with the MDWFP. 

Russ Walsh, Chief of Mississippi’s Wildlife Bureau, confirmed Arnett was hired as the next Alligator Program director on May 1. Arnett said he found out he got the job by a phone call, he was floored at the news. 

“It is an honor and I’m blessed. I have always wanted to do something with wildlife and law enforcement. Now I have the best of both worlds. You could not ask for a better position,” he said. “It is an opportunity that doesn’t happen every day.” 

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Ricky Flynt worked as the previous alligator program director and announced his departure from a 29 and a half year career with the MDWFP to join Mississippi Outdoors Forever Stewardship Trust Fund as a project manager. Flynt’s last commission meeting as Alligator Program director was this January in Cleveland. 

Flynt said after the January commission meeting his successor needed to, “read a lot, spend a lot of time in the field working with alligators and listen to our customers.”

Walsh said Arnett’s first day was May 1. Walsh said he knew the qualities and traits they were looking for in the next program director. Arnett first joined the MDWFP in 2012 as a biologist after graduating from Mississippi State University. 

“He has an interest in the program and I’m glad to have him back in the wildlife bureau,” Walsh said.

Arnett said his initial experience with alligators came in work as a biologist where he conducted alligator survey routes. He has also worked enforcement during alligator season and answered nuisance alligator calls. 

The program coordinator is responsible for a lot of behind the scenes work, he said. Administrative work has to be done to set up private and public land alligator hunts. Arnett said it has been a smooth transition since he started in the new role. 

Mississippi had two weekends of alligator hunting in the Pelahatchie Bay area this month. They were the first hunts Arnett oversaw as the program coordinator. He said the hunters he encountered had a good time and saw a lot of alligators. Of the 48 alligators hunters could harvest, 22 were taken. 

“I enjoy the interaction with the hunters. I have always enjoyed being with them, helping steer them in the right direction and educating them,” Arnett said. “There is a lot of interaction in this role.”