alligator

General Alligator Information

SKIN TRADE AND HARVEST HISTORY

 Alligators have been harvested for some two hundred years. Alligators were first harvested in Louisiana in great numbers in the early 1800's. These alligators were harvested for their skins which were used to make boots, shoes and saddles, and for their oil used to grease steam engines and cotton mills. The demand decreased when the leather made from the skins was thought not to be durable. In the mid 1800's the demand for alligator skins increased again. These skins were used to make shoes and saddles for the Confederate troops during the Civil War. In the late 1800's and early 1900's, commercial tanning processes began in New York, New Jersey and Europe. Because this process made the alligator skins soft, durable and more pliable, the demand for alligator leather increased dramatically. By the mid 1900's Louisiana’s alligator population had been significantly reduced. In 1962 the alligator hunting season was closed statewide due to low numbers. The reduction in numbers was a result of non-regulated harvests. Detrimental harvest practices included overharvesting (today harvest quotas are set annually for each property currently hunted), non-selection of sexes which often resulted in overharvesting females (males currently comprise approximately 70% of adult alligators harvested) and no closed season, allowing hunting to coincide with nesting, which resulted in the harvest of future populations by harvesting females before they could release hatchlings from the nest or even begin nesting (current seasons are conducted in September after nesting). Through protection, research and management, Louisiana’s alligator population increased to a level capable of sustaining harvests. In 1972 the alligator season was opened only in Cameron Parish and lasted 13 days. Other parishes were gradually added until the season became statewide in 1981. Louisiana’s wild and farm alligator harvests currently exceed 300,000 animals annually, while the population level (based on aerial nest surveys) remains stable.

CITES - PURPOSE, TAGS, “NO DETRIMENT” AND APPENDIX II

 CITES (Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora) is an agreement between 175 countries to adhere to guidelines concerning international trade of certain wild animals and plants so as to not threaten their survival. A requirement derived from CITES is that the La. Dept. of Wildlife and Fisheries illustrate annually that the harvest of alligators/alligator eggs has “no detriment” to Louisiana’s alligator population. Louisiana is currently harvesting less than 2% of the wild population annually. Two crucial instruments used annually to illustrate “no detriment” are aerial alligator nest surveys and harvest statistics. Each year biologists also use these instruments, as well as many others, to set alligator harvest and alligator egg collection quotas statewide. Another requirement derived from CITES is the tagging of all alligators harvested. Barcodes were added to Louisiana’s alligator tags in 2008 to assist in inventorying and tracking alligator hides. The La. Dept. of Wildlife and Fisheries tracks each alligator tag from hunter/farmer issuance to shipment out of Louisiana or finishing in Louisiana. This tracking system also provides other important information such as harvest areas, alligator lengths/widths and the number of alligators taken. The alligator (American alligator, Alligator mississippiensis) is currently listed on Appendix II of CITES due to its similar appearances to other alligators/crocodiles which are listed as threatened or endangered with extinction. Louisiana’s alligators are not “endangered” or even “threatened” with extinction. Alligator populations in Louisiana increased consistently from 1970 to 1999, have remained stable/slightly increasing for the last 10 years and currently remain at high levels.

REPTILES

 The American alligator (Alligator mississippiensis) is the largest reptile in North America. The first reptiles appeared 300 million years ago and ancestors of the American alligator appeared 160 million years ago. Reptiles are a cold-blooded animal, which means that their body temperature is regulated by the temperature of the environment around them. This is why alligators are seen basking in the sun, trying to regulate their body temperature. Because alligators are cold-blooded, their body rates are slowed down and they feed less frequently in winter months. For this reason, alligators enter underground holes/dens and remain dormant throughout the winter months.

SIZE AND GROWTH RATES

Alligators are about 8" - 12" in length when they are hatched from eggs. Growth rates may vary from 2" per year up to 12" per year, depending on the type of habitat in which the alligator is living and the sex, size and age of the alligator. Growth rates slow down as alligators become older. Male alligators will grow faster and larger than females. Females can grow to approximately 9' in length and 200+ pounds. Males can grow to approximately 13'+ in length and attain 500+ pounds.

RANGE AND HABITATS

Alligators range from central Texas eastward to North Carolina. Louisiana has the highest alligator population currently approaching 2 million. Although alligators can be found in ponds, lakes, canals, bayous, rivers and swamps, in Louisiana the highest populations occur in coastal marshes. Of the almost 4.5 million acres of alligator habitat available in Louisiana, coastal marshes account for approximately 3 million, followed by cypress-tupelo swamp (750,600 acres), dewatered wetlands (350,000 acres), Atchafalaya Basin swamp (207,000 acres) and lakes (47,450 acres). Approximately 79% of Louisiana’s coastal marsh alligator habitats are privately owned.

NESTING

Mature male, non-breeding female and sub-adult alligators tend to stay in deep water habitats. Alligators mate during the spring. After mating, females select nesting sites, usually near isolated ponds in interior marsh habitats. These areas usually have dense vegetation adjacent to the isolated ponds which will be used for nest construction. Female alligators generally build their nests by pulling vegetation together forming a mound. This mound nest will be 2' - 4' high and 4' - 8' in diameter. The female alligator makes a cavity by opening the nest and lays 20-60 eggs (averaging 35 eggs). After all the eggs have been laid, the female covers the cavity containing the eggs with vegetation from the nest. The nest vegetation maintains suitable temperatures and humidity which incubates the eggs. The female will remain near the nest during incubation and must open the nest to help the young alligators (hatchlings) exit the nest. Approximately 65 days after the eggs have been laid, the young will begin hatching and calling. Upon hearing the calls of the young, the female alligator will help them exit the nest by opening the top of the nest. The young may stay near the nest site for a couple of years. During the winter, alligators will enter underground holes/dens and remain dormant. As spring arrives, alligators emerge from winter dormancy and the annual processes (mating, nesting, winter dormancy, etc.) begin again.

FOOD HABITS

Young alligator diets consist of small animals such as insects, crawfish, small fish, frogs, etc. As alligators grow large enough their diet changes to include larger animals such as rats, crabs, larger fish and frogs, small birds, etc. When alligators mature their diet changes to include even larger animals such as muskrats, nutria, beaver, raccoons, large birds and fish, snakes, turtles, deer, etc.

WILD HARVEST SEASONS, AERIAL NEST SURVEYS AND QUOTAS

Much effort and time is needed in preparation for the wild alligator season in Louisiana. Preparation begins in June when the annual aerial alligator nest survey is conducted. The survey consists of sampling almost 150,000 acres coast wide and takes approximately 9 days to complete. Data obtained during the survey is used to calculate nest densities for over 50 management units statewide. Management units are classified by habitat type (fresh, intermediate and brackish marshes, swamps, lakes, etc.) for each parish/sub-parish. Other important data collected during the survey is habitat conditions. Louisiana’s wild alligator season usually begins in late August/early September and continues for approximately one month. Each year following alligator nest surveys, La. Dept. of Wildlife and Fisheries personnel review current habitat assessments, 5 year average nest densities and past harvest statistics and tag allotments for each management unit statewide. Tag allotments and harvest quotas are then set for each management unit for the upcoming wild alligator season. An alligator hunter must possess alligator CITES tags to harvest alligators and must attach these tags to alligators immediately upon harvest. The tags are issued by the La. Dept. of Wildlife and Fisheries for property containing sufficient alligator habitat capable of sustaining an alligator harvest. Alligator hunters apply for alligator tags prior to the season. The alligator hunter application includes a license application form containing alligator hunter information (name, dob, address, etc.), a legal description (township, range and sections) and map of the property to be hunted, and a landowner’s signature indicating permission for the hunter to harvest alligators on the property. La. Dept. of Wildlife and Fisheries personnel review each alligator hunting application and enter each property into a GIS computer system which assesses property acreage by habitat type and makes appropriate tag allocations (the number of alligators that may be harvested from that specific property). Prior to the wild alligator season, alligator hunters go to La. Dept. of Wildlife and Fisheries offices where they are issued the appropriate licenses and CITES alligator tags. Alligator hunter licenses possess important information about the hunter as well as the properties to be hunted. Alligator tags are property specific and must be used on the property indicated on the hunter’s license. The majority of the wild alligators are harvested by the fishing method. Baited hooks are suspended above the water. Alligators (feeding primarily at night) take the bait and are dispatched by the hunter when he checks his lines early each day. Alligators are immediately tagged and transported to licensed facilities which process alligators for their meat, hides and other commercially valuable parts.

RANCHING AND FARMING

Research showed alligators could be grown successfully under artificial conditions on farms. To provide alligators for stocking alligator farms, Louisiana began an alligator ranching program in 1986 which allows licensed alligator farmers to collect alligator eggs on private lands and incubate and hatch those eggs under artificial conditions. Most alligator egg collectors fly (some use helicopters, ultra-lights, motorized parachutes, etc.) to survey areas in which they are permitted to collect eggs (in swamps, egg collectors usually identify nest locations from boats). Upon nest identification, collectors mark nest locations using pvc, bamboo, flagging, gps or maps, visit nest locations (usually by airboat), open nests and collect eggs. Nesting material is placed around eggs in storage containers (trash cans, ice chests, plastic boxes, etc.). A storage container may contain several nests. Because alligator embryos attach to the tops of eggs, embryos will die if eggs are turned over. For this reason, the tops of eggs are usually marked so eggs are not accidentally turned over. Eggs are transported to incubators where the eggs are then transferred to numbered baskets. The numbering of baskets help provide necessary data concerning nest locations, egg numbers and hatching rates. Baskets containing eggs are placed in incubators which provide optimum conditions for egg incubation. The incubators are heated to approximately 86-91o Fahrenheit (F) and provide moisture to aid incubation. Approximately 65 days later, baskets are opened and the hatchlings are removed. A unique characteristic of alligators is sex determination through incubation temperatures. More males are produced when eggs are incubated at higher temperatures (90o F and above). Conversely, more females are produced when eggs are incubated at lower temperatures (87o F and below). Hatchlings are then transferred to raising facilities sometimes called grow out pens.

FARMING FACILITIES

Alligator raising facilities are characterized by many different building designs and sizes. Nevertheless, these facilities must meet specific requirements set forth by the La. Dept. of Wildlife and Fisheries. The facilities are insulated and heated and are capable of containing, filtering, draining and heating water to maintain temperatures between approximately 85-90o F. Buildings are usually partitioned so as to limit the number of alligators in one area. Such partitioning configurations include stalls or shelves.

RELEASES INTO WILD AND FARM HARVEST SIZES

Farmers raise alligators until they reach approximately 3' to 5' in length. At this time, the farmer must return back into the wild what would have survived to the 3' to 5' size classes (at 4' average length, 12% of hatch). La. Dept. of Wildlife and Fisheries personnel travel to these farms and must measure, mark and identify the sex of every alligator before release. Alligator farmers and landowners/managers release the farm raised alligators into the wild. Because of the numbered webtags and tail markings, a farm-released alligator can later be identified. The information gathered from these farm-released alligators such as growth, survival and dispersal rates is used to monitor and promptly adjust any regulations when needed. Farm raised alligators have faster growth rates than wild alligators due to continuous and optimum growing conditions (food supply, air and water temperatures - wild alligators have approximately 6 months of growing conditions due to cooler temperatures in the late fall, winter and early spring months). Two advantages of releasing juvenile farm raised alligators are alligators released have better chances of survival (alligators released are 3'-5' and have better chances of survival than hatchlings 8"-12") and alligators are produced every year (if predators destroy nests or flooding occurs, no eggs would hatch and thus no recruitment to the population). The remaining percentage not released into the wild can be sold by the farmer. The majority of farm alligators are harvested at the 3'-4' size classes. Natural mortality in the wild suggests most alligators harvested by farmers would not have hatched/survived if left in the wild and would have been a loss of the resource. Between 1999 and 2008, over 2.5 million (average 251,529 per year) alligators were harvested on farms in Louisiana and were valued at over $335 million (average $33,557,612 per year).

HIDES AND PRODUCTS

Although practically every part of the alligator is used, the meat and the skins are the most valuable. Raw alligator skins are preserved before tanning by salting the hides. The hides are then rolled up and sent to tanneries around the world. Tanneries convert the raw hides into finished alligator leather. Many color and skin finish combinations exist ranging from matte white to glossy black. Once alligator hides have been tanned, they are used to make all types of products varying in size from earrings to sofas. Such products may include key chains, money clips, watch bands, boots, shoes, belts, briefcases, wallets, purses, etc.

HARVESTS AND ECONOMIC VALUES

Alligators are a renewable natural resource. By placing an economic value on alligators, landowners are offered incentives to not only conserve wetlands but also enhance them, so as to increase alligator populations. Water control structures such as this may reduce the number of alligator eggs lost to flooding. Water control structures also allow land managers to manipulate water levels to properly manage alligator populations, which not only benefits alligators but birds, fish, furbearers and other animals that live there as well. Louisiana now has an alligator program in which ranchers collect over 350,000 alligator eggs, trappers harvest over 28,000 wild alligators and farmers harvest over 250,000 farm raised alligators annually. Raw meat and hide values are estimated at over $10 million for the wild harvest and over $40 million for the farm harvest annually. (Note these values consist of raw meat and hides only and are not reflective of hide values after tanning and product manufacturing, values associated with jobs, tourism, economy, etc. or egg values.) Estimates have been made that the alligator industry is valued at over $50 million annually to Louisiana. The majority of farm and wild alligator skins are being tanned in Singapore, Italy and France. In recent years the United States tanned less than 10% of all alligator skins produced in Louisiana. Although over 300,000 alligators are harvested annually from farm and wild sources, the population remains constant/slightly increasing. Through wise utilization and proper management, Louisiana’s alligator population continues to remain stable while at the same time allowing for the sustainable use of a valuable renewable natural resource.
 

Frequently Asked Alligator Questions

1. HOW MANY ALLIGATORS ARE IN LOUISIANA?
Louisiana 's wild alligator population is estimated to be approaching 2 million animals. There are also over 300,000 alligators on alligator farms in Louisiana.

2. HOW CAN I REPORT A NUISANCE ALLIGATOR?
See Nuisance Alligator Program and Complaint Procedures

3. WHEN IS LOUISIANA'S ALLIGATOR SEASON?
See Louisiana Wild Alligator Season Zones

4. HOW CAN I HUNT ALLIGATORS IN LOUISIANA?
See Alligator Hunting

5. HOW MANY ALLIGATORS ARE HARVESTED IN LOUISIANA AND WHAT IS THEIR VALUE?
Louisiana alligator hunters currently harvest over 28,000 wild alligators and farmers harvest over 280,000 farm-raised alligators annually. Raw meat and hide values are estimated at over $11 million for the wild harvest and over $46 million for the farm harvest. (Note these values consist of raw meat and hides only and are not reflective of hide values after tanning and product manufacturing, values associated with jobs, tourism, economy, etc. or egg values.) 

Wild Alligator Seasons and Zones

Alligator Zone Map

East Zone - Opens last Wednesday in August (season lasts 30 calendar days)
West Zone - Opens first Wednesday of September (season lasts 30 calendar days)

Parish Zone Description
ACADIA west entire parish
ALLEN west entire parish
ASCENSION east entire parish
ASSUMPTION east entire parish
AVOYELLES west entire parish
BEAUREGARD west entire parish
BIENVILLE west entire parish
BOSSIER west entire parish
CADDO west entire parish
CALCASIEU west entire parish
CALDWELL west entire parish
CAMERON west entire parish
CATAHOULA west entire parish
CLAIBORNE west entire parish
CONCORDIA west entire parish
DESOTO west entire parish
E BATON ROUGE east south of I-10 or south of I-12
E BATON ROUGE west north of I-10 or north of I-12
E CARROLL west entire parish
E FELICIANA west entire parish
EVANGELINE west entire parish
FRANKLIN west entire parish
GRANT west entire parish
IBERIA east east of the East Atchafalaya Basin Levee
IBERIA west west of the East Atchafalaya Basin Levee
IBERVILLE east south of I-10 and east of the East Atchafalaya Basin Levee
IBERVILLE west north of I-10 or south of I-10 and west of the East Atchafalaya Basin Levee
JACKSON west entire parish
JEFFERSON east entire parish
JEFFERSON DAVIS west entire parish
LAFAYETTE west entire parish
LAFOURCHE east entire parish
LASALLE west entire parish
LINCOLN west entire parish
LIVINGSTON east south of I-12
LIVINGSTON west north of I-12
MADISON west entire parish
MOREHOUSE west entire parish
NATCHITOCHES west entire parish
ORLEANS east entire parish
OUACHITA west entire parish
PLAQUEMINES east entire parish
POINTE COUPEE west entire parish
RAPIDES west entire parish
RED RIVER west entire parish
RICHLAND west entire parish
SABINE west entire parish
ST BERNARD east entire parish
ST CHARLES east entire parish
ST HELENA west entire parish
ST JAMES east entire parish
ST JOHN THE BAPTIST east entire parish
ST LANDRY west entire parish
ST MARTIN - LOWER east east of the East Atchafalaya Basin Levee
ST MARTIN - LOWER west west of the East Atchafalaya Basin Levee
ST MARTIN - UPPER west entire parish
ST MARY east east of the Atchafalaya River or east of the East Atchafalaya Basin Levee
ST MARY west west of the Atchafalaya River or west of the East Atchafalaya Basin Levee
ST MARY west includes all of Atchafalaya Delta WMA
ST TAMMANY east entire parish
TANGIPAHOA east south of I-12 or north of I-12 and east of I-55
TANGIPAHOA west north of I-12 and west of I-55
TENSAS west entire parish
TERREBONNE east entire parish
UNION west entire parish
VERMILION west entire parish
VERNON west entire parish
W BATON ROUGE east south of I-10
W BATON ROUGE west north of I-10
W CARROLL west entire parish
W FELICIANA west entire parish
WASHINGTON east entire parish
WEBSTER west entire parish
WINN west entire parish

Alligator Hunting Regulations Overview

Introduction

The Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries (LDWF) manages the American alligator (Alligator mississippiensis) as a commercial, renewable natural resource.  LDWF’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 LDWF’s wild harvest program in 1972, over 850,000 wild alligators have been harvested and sold bringing in millions of dollars of revenue to landowners and trappers.  Conservative estimates have valued these resources at over $250,000,000, providing significant, direct economic benefit to Louisiana.

Historical Perspective

Alligators have been used commercially for their valuable leather since the 1800s.  This harvest was generally unregulated throughout the 1900s, until a gradual population decline resulted in severely reduced harvests in the early 1950s.  In 1962, the alligator season in Louisiana was closed, and research studies, focusing on basic life history factors, were undertaken which led to development of a biologically sound management harvest program.

The goals of LDWF’s wild alligator harvest 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 the citizens of the state.  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 who lease land, to protect the alligator and to protect, maintain, and enhance the alligator’s wetland habitats.  One of the most critical components of the wild harvest program is to equitably distribute the harvest in relation to population levels.

Alligator populations quickly increased between 1962 and 1972 while alligators were totally protected.  In September 1972 LDWF initiated a closely regulated experimental commercial wild alligator harvest in Cameron Parish.  Additional parishes were included in subsequent years and became statewide in 1981.  Currently over 2,000 licensed alligator hunters harvest 30,000 to 35,000 wild alligators annually in Louisiana.

Alligator Hunting

General

The Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries issues alligator harvest tags for property containing sufficient wetland alligator habitat capable of sustaining an alligator harvest.  Wild alligator tags can only be issued to licensed alligator hunters and are nontransferable.  An alligator hunter must either own land or have permission to hunt alligators on land that qualifies for alligator harvest tags.  Alligator hunters apply for alligator tags prior to the season.

Licenses

Hunter1

An alligator hunter must possess on his person an alligator hunter’s license as well as one or more current alligator tags for the property on which he is hunting.  Tags are property specific and must be used on the property indicated on the hunter’s license.  Alligator hunters must have their alligator hunter’s license in possession to possess or sell wild alligators, their skins, or parts.  Resident alligator hunter licenses cost $25, nonresident landowner licenses cost $150 and there is no cost for alligator tags.

Helper (Residents Only)

Individuals other than the hunter harvesting alligators for the hunter must possess a helper license.  Licensed helpers can hunt independently of the alligator hunter.  Anyone assisting the hunter but not harvesting alligators does not need a helper license.  A helper license costs $25 and must bear the name and license number of the hunter(s) being assisted.

Sport (Residents and Nonresidents)

Individuals can harvest alligators as a sport while being guided by a hunter possessing tags.  Sport hunters must always be accompanied by a licensed hunter or helper.  A sport license costs $25 for Louisiana residents and $150 for nonresidents.

Seasons

Louisianais divided into east and west alligator hunting zones.  Each zone has specific opening and closing dates.  The east zone opens the last Wednesday of August and the west zone opens the first Wednesday of September.  Each zone remains open for 30 days from the opening date.  Baited hooks and lines may be set no more than 24 hours prior to the general open season and shall be removed no later than sunset of the last day of the open season. 

Hunting Hours

Alligators may be harvested between official sunrise and sunset only.  No nighttime harvest is allowed.

Limits and Size Restrictions

The daily and season quota is equal to the number of alligator tags that a licensed alligator hunter possesses.  There are no size restrictions on wild alligators taken during the general open season.

Legal Methods

Alligators may be harvested by hook and line, bow and arrow and firearms (except shotguns).  The possession of shotguns is prohibited while hunting or taking wild alligators.  The fishing (hook and line) method is the most common.1A nonresident landowner may be issued alligator tags on his own property in Louisiana provided that the property qualifies for alligator harvest tags and the proper applications have been submitted.  Any alligator hunter related information provided in this document or in current alligator regulations also applies to nonresident landowners.

Fishing Method (hook and line)

Baited hooks and lines are suspended above the water by some type of structure.  In most cases hunters will use poles, branches or trees to suspend baits as well as provide for a stationary object for securing the end of the line.  The most commonly used baits are chicken quarters and beef melt.  Approximately 30’ of line is tied off to the bottom of the structure while the baited hook end is suspended about 1-2’ above the water surface.  Line must be a minimum of 300 lb. test.  The baited end is suspended in such a manner to allow for easy line removal by an alligator.  Clothes pins are sometimes used to hold lines to facilitate easy line removal.  Excess line is rolled up near the base of the structure.  Alligators (feeding primarily at night) will take the bait.  Once alligator lines are set and baited, alligator hunters must inspect their hooks and lines and remove captured alligators daily.  Alligators should be dispatched immediately upon checking lines.  Shot placement should be centered directly behind the skull.  No person shall release any alligator from any taking device for any purpose without first dispatching the alligator, except in the event that an alligator is hooked and the hunter's quota has been reached, the hunter must immediately release the alligator in the most humane method possible.  All hooks and lines shall be removed when an alligator hunter's quota is reached. 

Bow and Arrow

Bow and arrow can be used to dispatch alligators while on hook and line (see Fishing Method above) or to capture alligators.  Barbed arrow must be used to capture alligators.  A minimum of 300 lb. test line must be securely attached to the head of the arrow in such a manner to prevent separation from the arrow head.  The other end of the line must be attached to a stationary or floating object capable of maintaining the line above water when an alligator is attached.  Bow and arrow use may not be permitted if hunting on public lands or public lakes.

Firearms

Firearms (except shotguns) may be used to dispatch alligators while on hook and line (see Fishing Method above) or to harvest free swimming alligators.  Harvesting free swimming alligators with firearms may increase chances of losing alligators.  Extreme caution should be used when harvesting free swimming alligators to ensure that alligators can be retrieved once harvested.  Alligator hunters should practice firearm safety at all times and pay close attention to ricochet hazards.  Harvesting free swimming alligators may not be permitted if hunting on public lands or public lakes.

Tagging

Alligators are to be tagged immediately upon harvest before moving from the capture location.  The tag should be placed about 6” from the end of the tail on the bottom side of the tail.  Once the tag is placed through the tail it must be locked using the tag’s locking device.  The tag must stay affixed to the alligator or alligator hide until the tanned hide is used for product manufacturing.  Be careful not to prematurely lock tags or catch tags on objects that may rip out or break tags.  Be careful not to lose or drop tags overboard.  Tags do not float and will not be replaced if lost.

Alligator Care

Alligators should be kept cool and covered with damp coverings (burlap sacks, blankets, etc.) and away from gasoline, oil or other contaminants.  Contaminants will cause hide damage which will substantially lower value or even make the alligator worthless.

Selling Alligators

Alligators/hides can only be sold to licensed fur buyers or fur dealers.  Most wild alligators are sold whole to fur buyers/dealers at processing facilities.  Make sure that arrangements have been made to sell alligators prior to setting lines or harvesting alligators.

Processing Alligators and Hides
Properly skinning alligators can be difficult. Minor knife cuts, holes or poor skin preparation can severely decrease alligator hide value. Alligators should be skinned by someone with prior alligator skinning experience whenever possible. If no experienced skinner is available and a hunter chooses to skin his own alligator(s) for personal use, the first step is to prepare for skinning with a table at a comfortable height, a sharp knife, a sharpener, a scraper and salt. Begin the skinning process (see Appendix I for detailed instructions and diagrams). Once skinning is complete all meat and fat must be removed from the alligator hide to prevent decay. The most common scraping method is to use dull tools such as blunt knives, paint scrapers or beveled pipes to scrape excess meat and fat from the underside of the skin. Once the skin has been scraped and cleaned it must be salted. Salt removes moisture and helps cure the alligator skin. A fine grain salt should be applied generously (1/2 to 1 inch thick) and rubbed into all parts of the skin. The skin should then be tightly rolled and stored in a cool and well ventilated area where it can drain. After three to five days, the old salt should be thrown away, the skin resalted, rolled and refrigerated if possible.

Alligator Parts
Alligator hunters may give alligator parts* to anyone for personal use. Any alligator parts or containers enclosing alligator parts must be tagged with the name, address, date, hide tag number, and the license number of the person donating the alligator part(s). This information must remain affixed until the part(s) has been stored at the domicile of the possessor. In addition an alligator transaction parts form must be submitted to LDWF by the end of the calendar year if any parts transaction has taken place. (* alligator part - any part of an alligator excluding the hide and includes the bony dorsum plates, if detached from the tagged alligator hide)

Storage, Tanning or Taxidermy
Alligators/alligator skins may be stored at any location provided that they are properly tagged and documented. An alligator hunter must have any alligators/alligator skins being shipped out of state or being tanned or used for taxidermy instate inspected by LDWF, pay the appropriate tag fee and severance tax and receive a shipping tag prior to shipping. A hunter needing an inspection should contact their local LDWF office, or the office that issued their license and tags, in advance to schedule the inspection.

Research Alligators
Many alligators have been marked by LDWF biologists for research purposes. Some of these were caught in the wild, and some were released to the wild from commercial farms. These alligators have one or more notches cut out of the tail scutes and have had two metal tags placed in the webbing between the toes (usually on the back feet). These tag returns are like duck bands, and allow biologists to follow the movement, growth, and survival of alligators. Alligator hunters should report and submit any research alligator captured by recording the full web tag number (usually 6 digits), the length, tail notch(es) and sex of the alligator on forms provided by LDWF. Sometimes the web tag in the foot is lost as the alligator grows, but the information from the tail notch lets LDWF know what year the alligator was marked. It is very important that hunters report the information to LDWF if a marked alligator is captured, as it helps LDWF’s management programs for continued harvests.

Unused Alligator Tags
All unused alligator tags shall be returned within 15 days following the close of the season.

Lost or Stolen Alligator Tags
If alligator tags are lost or stolen the alligator hunter must complete an official lost tag form and submit it to LDWF within 15 days following the close of the season. Lost or stolen tags will not be replaced.

Hides Not Sold or Shipped Within 30 Days Following the Close of the Season
All alligators/alligator skins not sold to commercial buyers/dealers or shipped for tanning/ taxidermy within 30 days following the close of the season must be reported to LDWF. LDWF's official forms require specific information which includes tag number, location, intended use and length.

Reminders
Alligator hunters are responsible for disposition of all issued alligator tags. All alligator hunters should thoroughly review all current alligator regulations. Always follow all alligator regulations. Alligator hunters harvesting alligators on public areas should review and follow all regulations specific to that public area. For specific details check with the office responsible for that public area prior to commencing alligator harvest activities.

Questions
See www.lagatorprogram.com for more alligator hunting information as well as other alligator program information.
For specific questions not covered previously or by the alligator program's webpage contact the local LDWF office or e-mail the alligator program at LAalligatorprogram@wlf.louisiana.gov.

Disclaimer
This publication is not an official copy of the laws in effect and should not be utilized or relied upon as such. It does represent an attempt by the publisher to present as a public service, an overview of some of the laws and a set of regulations adopted by the Louisiana Wildlife and Fisheries Commission and being current at the time of this publication. Substantive changes to the state laws may very well occur following the printing of this publication. For these reasons, the accuracy of the information contained within this publication cannot be guaranteed and the reader is cautioned that it is his responsibility to apprise himself of the laws in effect at any given time. These regulations include those contained within the Louisiana Revised Statutes, particularly Title 56 and the official regulations of the Louisiana Wildlife and Fisheries Commission.

 

Alligator Hide Care

"Louisiana's Commitment to Quality"

HIDE CARE TIPS

This brochure is not a basic guide on how to skin an alligator, but we can offer a summary of skinning steps, tips on how to best care for alligator skins and explain why careful skinning and scraping is important. Most current quality problems with Louisiana alligator skins can be cured by simply using extra care with the skinning knife and extra effort with the hide scraper.

Start with a good place to skin an alligator and have the right tools to do the job. Obviously, you need a steady table at a comfortable height, a good light, a knife and a sharpener, a scraper and salt to get started. You also need to develop your own skinning routine. The best skinners say this comes with practice and experience, but learn to skin an alligator the same way each time instead cif changing from one way to another. That way you begin to develop your own system. You will develop a feel for each spot in the skin, and by doing it the same way each time, your moves and knife strokes almost become second nature. A standardized method of skinning, curing and handling alligator skins increases the value of the product and improves buyer confidence in a uniform lot of skins. Diagram 1 shows the standard opening cuts when skinning an alligator and the belly patterns of the skin.

SKINNING STEPS

  1. Outline the body where skinning will start.
  2. The cut along the sides is made between first and second row of sautes on the back.
  3. A straight cut is made from the back along the top of each leg (through the largest scales).
  4. Cut completely around each foot at the wrist or ankle.
  5. The outline cut on the tail is below the top row of tail sautes.
  6. When cuts reach the single row of tail scutes midway along tail, cut through base to end of tail (butterfly end of tail).
  7. Skin tail completely along the sides.
  8. Begin skinning body section with front legs and adjacent side skin.
  9. Slowly cut skin away from front legs and side of body.
  10. Some pulling can be done on upper leg portions.
  11. Skin hind legs and adjacent side skin same as front legs.
  12. The sides should be completely skinned and only the belly portion should be left unskinned now.
  13. After sides and legs are skinned, turn alligator on its side and make outline cuts along lower jawbone.
  14. Cut is made along the outer edge of the lower jaw skin.
  15. By pulling on the jaw muscle, the flesh can be tightened, allowing for easier skinning.
  16. After skin is cut from lower jaw and neck, the alligator is ready to be skinned down the belly.
  17. Skinning the under side of the alligator can be accomplished by both pulling and cutting.
  18. Pulling is easier on small alligators, with careful cutting required otherwise.
  19. Cut carefully around anal opening (vent) so this area won't tear if pulled.
  20. Both pull and cut skin from the remaining tail section.
  21. Meat and fat remaining on the skin must be removed.
  22. Scrape with dull objects (pipes, scrapers, spoons, etc.) taking care not to cut or tear skin.
  23. Once scraped, hide should be relatively free of flesh and white in appearance.
  24. Skin should be washed in clean, fresh water to remove blood and other fluids.
  25. Hang skin in shaded area and allow to drain.

The shaded area between the neck and vent in Diagram 2 is the part of the belly skin that is graded. Holes or cuts in this part of the skin make it difficult or impossible to cut full belly patterns for purses, briefcases or larger leather articles. Enough holes or cuts in the flanks can even make cutting shoe vamps or snaller leather-goods difficult. The one row of scutes along the sides of the alligator are left so the tanner has same extra skin to tack to when the skin is stretched and dried during the tanning process. Special care should be taken not to cut or put holes in the belly pattern of the skin (particularly around the legs and flanks where the thin skin is easy to nick with a knife).

The proper care of alligator skins begins as soon as the animal is harvested. Here are some more helpful tips:

  1. Skinning should take place as soon after the harvest as practical.
  2. Avoid direct sun or heat on the carcass or skin whenever possible.
  3. Keep skin away from blood, entrails, or other contact with dirty surfaces where more bacteria can get into the hide.
  4. Always skin carefully and particularly avoid holes or cuts in the belly pattern.
  5. Scrape excess meat and fat from the underside of the skin with blunt knives, paint scrapers, beveled pipes or other dull tools.

Removing meat and fat from the skin is very important because of the time necessary to store and ship alligator skins overseas for tanning. This often takes several months and the excess meat simply helps bacteria get started and can lead to "red heat" or "slipping" skins. If excess fat is not removed it can prevent salt from properly penetrating the skin. Also, if the fat heats up, it can actually penetrate the skin and leave grease spots on the finished leather.

The purpose of curing alligator hides is simply to remove moisture from the skin so it can be better preserved before tanning. A fine grain mixing salt works best and should be applied generously (1/2 to 1 inch thick) and rubbed into all parts of the skin. Salt should be rubbed thoroughly into the skin, making sure enough salt gets into the creases, flaps, tail and similar places where bacteria can get a start. Salt helps slow bacterial growth. Tightly roll the skins and stack in a well-ventilated place where they can drain. After three to five days in a cool or shaded place, the skins should be resalted for best curing. Don't use rock salt and don't freeze hides (freezer burned hides won't tan properly).

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