The hunt is on. As of August 31, Louisiana hunters are once again able to wrangle with the reptile whose jaw is the most powerful on the planet — the alligator. It’s a hunt with both risks and rewards.
“We look forward to it all year,” Louisiana alligator hunter Troy Landry once said on “Swamp People,” which airs on The History Channel. “We can’t wait for it to get here.”
Each hunting zone — there’s an east zone, which opened Aug. 31, and a west zone, which opened Sept. 7 — has a season lasting 30 days. During that time, only hunters who are registered can catch alligators. And even then, they can only catch a certain number of the reptiles.
Louisiana’s Department of Wildlife & Fisheries (LDWF) regulates the hunting season by giving out tags to registered hunters and specifying where hunters can look for their targets. Hunters may receive one tag or 400, depending on the acreage of alligator habitat where they’ll be hunting.
For 30 days, then, hunters race to catch as many alligators as they’re permitted — so they can sell it and stock up their own freezers with enough alligator meat to last through the year.
Partly due to the popularity of the show “Swamp People,” alligator hunting and alligator meat are experiencing a boom. Food distributor Sysco reports that the sale of alligator meat has increased significantly, and the LDWF reports seeing an uptick in the number of hunting licenses requested.
No additional hunting licenses are being issued, though, despite the increase in demand, say LDWF officials. The state’s Alligator Management Program reflects a thoughtful approach to both protecting and managing wildlife. Back in 1962, alligator hunting was banned. Too many were being harvested. By 1981, though, the state had created a regulated hunting season statewide, which they’ve maintained ever since.
Without the hunting program, says Landry, the state’s approximately 2 million alligators could become a nuisance. Left unchecked, the alligator population would explode.
“If they weren’t catching them, you would hear stories of people being eaten,” Landry said on “Swamp People.” “They can get overpopulated, run out of food, then move closer to people’s houses. The only solution is a 30-day season to hunt them.”