Louisiana Wetlands

Alligator History

The American Alligator has become a viable resource in Louisiana’s aquaculture. The alligator is valued for its meat and hide.  The meat of the alligator is considered a delicacy, high in protein and low in fat. The hide of the alligator is thought to be a fine and durable leather.  The leather is used for boots, briefcases, purses, shoes, wallets, and other leather items. All of the meat of the alligator is edible, and is sold in restaurants all throughout Florida and Louisiana.

It is recorded that the alligator was first used commercially during the late 1800's.  During the early to mid 1900's there was no law regarding the harvesting of alligators.  The absence of a regulation led to depletion of alligator populations. In 1943, there was a major concern over the alligator's population decline.  This led to establishment of a 4 foot minimum size limit.  Despite this regulation, the decline continued.  In 1954, a statewide 6 foot minimum size limit was imposed.  However, this regulation did little to stop the alligator’s declination.  In 1962, the legal harvesting of alligators was stopped.

During the 1960's, the alligator’s population declined still.  Poaching of the alligator became widespread.  Because of a loophole in state laws, authorities were unable to shut down the network of illegal hide distributors.  Finally, in 1967, the American alligator was placed on the Endangered Species List.  In 1970, federal regulations were implemented that effectively ended the alligator market. The populations of alligators began to rebound.  It has been suspected that perhaps the alligators population was never as bad as originally thought, that the alligator had just become more adept at eluding humans.

In 1977, the alligator was reclassified from an endangered to a threatened species. This change in status allowed the alligator to once again be available for commercial use. During the 1980's the alligator became to be viewed as a renewable resource, and several alligator management programs were instituted by the State of Florida. These programs allowed for controlled hunting of the alligator by private individuals and the collection of eggs and hatchlings by licensed alligator farms.

Alligator farming is now a thriving business, with an estimated 30+ alligator farm. This industry generates about 150,000 tons of meat and over 15,000 skins a year.  The meat averages five to seven dollars a pound.  While skin prices vary year to year, the average price is around $25/foot. Currently, it is estimated that we are home to over 1,000,000 alligators, not counting those raised on alligator farms. 

The skin on the alligator's back is armored with embedded bony plates called osteoderms or scutes. The young can be distinguished from adults because they have bright yellow stripes on the tail; adults have dark stripes on the tail. Large prey are dragged under water, drowned and then devoured in pieces!  Click here to view photos of alligators.



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