Alligator Program

History

The Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries (Department) manages the American alligator (Alligator mississippiensis) as a commercial, renewable natural resource. The goals of the Department's alligator program are to manage and conserve Louisiana's alligators as part of the state's wetland ecosystem, provide benefits to the species, its habitat and the other species of fish and wildlife associated with alligators. The basic philosophy was to develop a sustained use management program which, through regulated harvest, would provide long term benefits to the survival of the species, maintain its habitats, and provide significant economic benefits to landowners, alligator farmers and alligator hunters. Since Louisiana's coastal alligator habitats are primarily privately owned (approximately 81%), our sustained use management program provides direct economic benefit and incentive to private landowners, and alligator hunters/farmers who lease land, to protect the alligator and to protect, maintain, and enhance the alligator's wetland habitats.

The Department's sustained use program is one of the world's most recognizable examples of a wildlife conservation success story. Louisiana's program has been used as a model for managing various crocodilian species throughout the world. Since the inception of the Department's program in 1972, over 810,000 wild alligators have been harvested, over 6.5 million alligator eggs have been collected, and over 3.5 million farm raised alligators have been sold bringing in millions of dollars of revenue to landowners, trappers and farmers. Conservative estimates have valued these resources at over $704,000,000, providing significant, direct economic benefit to Louisiana.

Commercial trade in alligators is regulated through the Convention on Trade in Endangered Species (CITES). While the alligator is not endangered or threatened anywhere in the U.S., it is listed on Appendix II of CITES due to its similarity of appearance to other endangered crocodilian species. CITES requirements are implemented by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS). On an annual basis the Department must provide to the USFWS a "finding of no detriment" stating that Louisiana's harvest and export of alligators are not detrimental to the survival of the species.

The Department's alligator program can be separated into three categories: wild alligator management, alligator farming/ranching program and nuisance alligator program.

Responsibilities

Louisiana's wild alligator management program involves:

  • annual coastal nest surveys to index populations
  • calculate 50+ wild alligator harvest quotas
  • execute the annual wild alligator harvest
  • collect, analyze, and interpret necessary data,
  • provide technical assistance to landowners and hunters
  • ensure compliance with CITES and USFWS requirements
  • conduct necessary research activities

Louisiana's alligator farming/ranching program involves:

  • monitor compliance with farm facility requirements
  • facilitate alligator egg collections; set egg harvest quotas and issue permits
  • verify/account for farm inventories and harvest tags
  • process farm-raised alligators for release into wild
  • inspect live alligator and alligator hide shipments
  • collect, analyze and interpret necessary data
  • provide technical assistance to landowners and farmers
  • ensure compliance with CITES and USFWS requirements

Louisiana's nuisance alligator program involves:

  • minimize/alleviate alligator/human conflicts
  • manage a statewide network of nuisance alligator hunters
  • receive and process nuisance alligator complaints
  • assign complaints to nuisance hunters
  • ensure hunter compliance with nuisance alligator policy
  • review and analyze nuisance alligator complaints and harvest data annually