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LOUISIANA Alligators History

Related Categories: Louisiana Swamp Tours ~ Louisiana Alligators ~ Louisiana Alligator Hunting/Harvesting ~ Nuisance Alligators

The History of Louisiana Alligators

Louisiana has a very long history with the alligators that inhabit her swamps and wetlands. In fact the earliest stories of alligators in our state began as far back as the establishment of a colony in 1699 by Sieur d'Iberville. He wrote about them in his diary while exploring the Bayou Manchac. He refers to killing a ‘small’ one (eight feet long) and describing it as ’very good to eat’. I guess you might say in Louisiana if we see it, we eat it! Also on the expedition was Andre Penicaut who also wrote about the many alligators including a story about one of their dogs which was eaten by a gator somewhere near the west boundary of our St Bernard Parish. He even claimed that the expedition had killed an alligator that was 19 feet long.

Many other stories have mentioned the numerous alligators and their humongous sizes. In an 1854 Harper’s New Monthly Magazine article it was said that a 22 foot alligator had been killed in Pascagoula Bay. The author even wrote about the famous artist and author James J. Audubon who killed a gator in the Three Rivers area that measured 17 feet. Considering the abundance of alligators it’s no wonder everyone was running into them and of course eating them.

Louisiana has been harvesting alligators in the wild in great numbers since the early 1800’s. The meat was eaten, the skins were used to make shoes, boots and saddles while their oil was used in steam engines and in cotton gins. During the Civil War alligator skins were in high demand as they were used to make boots and saddles for the confederate soldiers. By the early 1900’s they had learned to make the alligator skins soft and durable thus increasing the demand for their skins. The increase in demand was such that their numbers of alligators in the wild diminished and the state had to act. From 1962 to 1971 Louisiana closed hunting for alligators in order to allow them to flourish and replenish their numbers.

In 1972 Louisiana began to allow alligator hunting in one parish (Cameron Parish) and for only thirteen days. The state continued adding parishes each year as the population grew and could sustain the hunts. It was eventually made a statewide hunting season in 1981. Today hunters harvest wild alligators in September and take 34,000-37,000 annually and they are worth over 13 million dollars for their meat and their skins.

Another change in Louisiana alligators is the alligator farms which began in 1986 (alligator ranching program) in response to the dwindling wild population. Farmers were allowed to harvest alligator eggs from the wild on private lands which they could then incubate and hatch. The farmers are required to return to the wild 12% of the eggs they harvested when the reptiles are 3’ to 5’ long. This has insured a healthy supply of alligators in the wild allowing this natural resource to thrive in the state. It’s estimated that over a half million eggs are harvested each year. The alligator farmers also harvest 250,000 to 350,000 of their own raised stock which is valued at over 81 million dollars annually.

Alligators as a Renewable Natural Resource

Alligators as a Renewal Natural Resource in LouisianaSince their discovery in Louisiana, alligators have been a great renewable resource for the state. Using their meat as food, their skins for shoes, boots and saddles and their oil for engines, they have always been a part of the Louisiana economy. When the hunting was unregulated, their numbers dwindled to dangerous levels and the alligator was actually listed on the federal Endangered Species Act in 1967. First with the closing of hunting for a decade and then the state regulating the return and adding alligator farmers into the picture, the alligators have flourished since the 1980’s thus protecting this Louisiana natural resource. With the addition in 1986 of alligator farms Louisiana has insured a future of economic value for the state estimated to be around 80 to 90 million dollars annually. Louisiana wetlands benefit from alligator conservationAnother benefit of this system is that landowners are getting benefits to conserve the wetlands as well as enhancing them in order to increase the alligator population. In turn these increased wetlands provide habitat for birds, fish, fur bearing animals and other wildlife. So after 200 years of harvesting, with the state help and the alligator farmer’s help everyone and every animal benefits in this conservation effort.

The benefits of this natural resource are an economic benefit and incentive for private landowners and alligator hunters who lease the these private lands. 81 per cent of Louisiana coastal wetlands privately ownedIn fact about 81 per cent of Louisiana’s coastal alligator habitats are privately owned. These state programs allow private citizens to not only prosper from these resources but to also maintain and protect these natural resources.

For the state’s part they have made detailed scientific study of the alligators, their nests and the results of regulated hunting as well as the introduction of alligator farmers into the picture. Their expertise has made this a successful endeavor for Louisiana, the alligators, the hunters, the farmers, the landowners and the bountiful wildlife.

Louisiana alligator farms help alligator populationThanks to the state’s conservation programs although over 300,000 alligators are harvested each year from farms and wild sources, the alligator population remains constant and is actually increasing slightly. We are a great example through knowledgeable applications and good management, the state of Louisiana’s alligator population is not only stable but is also creating the opportunity for sustainable use of her most valuable renewable natural resource.

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