Louisiana Alligator Hunting History
Louisiana alligators - a sustainable resource
Louisiana sports nearly a 60 million dollar alligator industry and has roughly 60 licensed alligator farmers throughout the state. The state also has a highly successful regulated alligator program monitored by the Louisiana Department of Wildlife & Fisheries. The program was first established in 1972 as a conservation measure that protected the wild alligator population by developing a profitable industry. Over-harvesting had forced a closure of seasonal hunting in 1962, but a decade later, the population levels had returned, and the state began a regulated harvesting program that ultimately included annual wild alligator egg collection and wild alligator hunting, each monitored with annual quotas.
Since 1986 (and beginning annually in June), alligator farmers are allowed to go into the wild to collect newly laid wild alligator eggs. This activity can be more dangerous than actual alligator hunting since female gators are very protective of their nest and are known to become extremely aggressive. Once hatched, farmers are required to return 12% of the alligators they have raised back to the wild, which mirrors the species natural survival rate. Up to 88% of all wild eggs and recently born alligators are lost, due to flooding or natural predators like fish, raccoons, river otters and other alligators. It's considered a model conservation program for crocodilian species.
In a typical year, Louisiana alligator farmers export about 300,000 alligator skins to tanneries in Eurpoe and Asia, the biggest of which are affiliated with fashion houses Hermes and Gucci. Most of the state's skins are havested from smaller gators, and ultimately end up as watch bands. In some years more than a half-million eggs have been collected in the state and brought to farms where they were incubated and hatched. Baby gators are fed and cared for until they reach around four feet in length and about 22 inches in width. In an ordinary year 32.000 to 35,000 alligators are havested in their natural habitat by hunters.