At least in much of Terrebonne Parish:
An official from a major local land company and holder of hundreds of hunting leases in Terrebonne Parish, announced today that due to the rumors that the going price per foot for big alligators is dropping to half of what it was last year. These lease holders/hunters will not be issued alligator tags this season, and the tags will be returned to LDWF. In other words,
NO ALLIGATOR HUNTING THIS YEAR.
A 52-year old local alligator hunter (who chooses not to be named) said, “I’ve been fishing alligators since I was a boy, and this is the first time we’ve not hunted gators due to price. In the past, the season has been canceled due to other things like hurricanes but never because of low price.”
In the past, the bigger gators went for up to $65 a foot, and the lowest the price has dropped in the past was as low as as $25 per foot for the big gators and $12 per foot for those under six feet long.
The reason for the lower price is the drop in demand and the glut in supply. Wild gator hunters aren’t the only ones who supply gator hides for sale to the hide buyers. The alligator farmers also harvest farm-raised gators for their hide. And the Catch 22 is that alligator farmers often purchase the wild gator hides from the hunter through a land company. My understanding is that the alligator farmers have a major overstock of frozen hides stacked up in freezers as far away as Thailand. Why?
Well, because the folks with the big bucks just aren’t into wearing wild hides any more–at least not as much as they once were. Most of the alligator hides these days are made into smaller items like watch bands and belts. Gone are the days of the lady with the alligator purse. Maybe cowboys have abandoned their gator-hide boots for more exotic hides like ostrich. When was the last time you saw an alligator suitcase?
Regardless, Terrebonne Parish DOES NOT have a shortage of alligators–quite the opposite. The alligator protection and restoration project implemented by LDWF back in the 80s has been very, very successful. So much so, that there is absolutely no threat of alligators becoming endangered anytime soon. Actually, a controlled hunting season is a huge part of the program and guarantees the survival rate of the American alligator in these parts and keeps them from overpopulation. If the number of dead gators on the side of the road* this summer is any indication of the healthy population, and with the absence of a hunting season, we’ll be overrun by alligators soon enough.
For decades, local alligator hunters have looked forward to this once-a-year alligator hunting season. Back in the days when bayou people lived completely off the wetlands, they counted on the income from hunting alligators to get them through until the winter fur-trapping season. Now, most alligator hunters take their vacation time from their day jobs during gator season because gator hunting is part of their heritage, and they want to continue to pass that heritage down to their children and grandchildren. Sadly, none of the bayou people trap fur-bearing animals for winter income, because the market for wild furs is nil.
If the market doesn’t see an upturn in demand for alligator hides for the production of purses, boots, and bigger items, like custom-made furniture, this might be the beginning of the end of yet one more way of life for the bayou people.
What’s next, friends, what’s next?
* (Roadkill gator is a terrible thing, but sometimes it just can’t be avoided, especially at night. Just ask my Cuz Kay and Cuz Susan about that late-night ride on the crossroad . . . but it didn’t die.)