Louisiana gators thrive, so farmers’ return quota may drop

Oct 17, 2021, 7:47 AM | Updated: 7:59 am

NEW ORLEANS (AP) — Once-endangered alligators are thriving in the wild, so Louisiana authorities are proposing a deep cut in the percentage that farmers must return to marshes where their eggs were laid.

“Over the past 50 years, alligator nest surveys have increased from an estimate of less than 10,000 in the 1970s and 1980s to well over 60,000 nests in recent years,” the Louisiana Wildlife and Fisheries Commission said in a notice published Wednesday. “This increase in nesting has produced a population that can now be sustained with a much lower farm return rate.”

The commission is taking comments until Jan. 4 on a proposal to cut that rate from 10% to 5%.

The big armored reptiles don’t breed well in captivity, so farmers are allowed to collect eggs from nests as long as they return a percentage to the same area as youngsters big enough to foil predators other than people and much bigger alligators.

Alligator hides are made into luxury leather for products including watchbands, boots and purses. The meat is used in sausages; companies also sell roasts, steaks, ribs, nuggets, jerky and even whole skinned alligators. Forelegs are marketed as “alligator wings.”

About 1.2 million have been returned since alligator farming was approved in 1986, Jeb Linscombe, head of the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries’ alligator program, said Thursday.

The return percentage was first set at 17%, based on estimates that about 83% die in the egg or before they’re 4 feet (1.2 meters) long. A wild-hatched gator that size would be about 4 years old, but readily available food lets farmed alligators grow much faster.

Raccoons, other predators and floods destroy about one-third of all nests. The black and yellow hatchlings are about 8.5 inches (22 centimeters) long and weigh only 2 ounces (57 grams). That makes them easy prey for bigger gators, wading birds, otters and fish even though mother alligators stay with their babies for about a year.

Uncontrolled hunting nearly wiped out American alligators before Louisiana barred all hunting in 1962. Alligator mississippiensis was among the first species federally listed as endangered in 1967, after Congress passed the precursor to the Endangered Species Act.

“The primary reason the species recovered is .. elimination of the black market,” Linscombe said.

Louisiana allowed small, highly regulated hunts in 1972 and 1973, opening a statewide season in 1981. Two years later, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service ruled that the species had recovered over most of its range, and it was “de-listed” entirely in 1987.

Since 1972, more than 1.1 million wild alligators have been killed, over 11 million alligator eggs have been collected, and nearly 7.3 million farm raised alligators have been sold, according to the state management program’s 2019-2020 annual report.

Surveyors who flew over coastal marshes during the summer of 2019 estimated the number of alligator nests at a record, nearly 68,000. This year’s estimate was a few thousand below that, Linscombe said.

A change in weather patterns is one reason for the big numbers, he said. There are far fewer nests during droughts, when the water is low — and there were regular droughts over the first 40 years of state nest surveys. But there haven’t been any droughts over the past decade.

Hunters took 23,828 alligators during the wild season in 2019. It was the second straight increase “but harvest remains depressed due to an oversupply of crocodilian skins worldwide,” the report said.

Harvest numbers this year and last have been depressed by Hurricanes Ida, Laura and Delta, and by COVID-19 restrictions, Linscombe said.

Farmers’ return rate has been reduced several times over the years.

Current regulations require farmers to return 10% of hatchlings within two years — with a sliding scale based on average lengths of 36 to 60 inches (0.9 to 1.5 meters). Higher average lengths bring the percentage down.

Nearly 387,000 eggs were collected in 2017. resulting in about 39,000 farm-raised alligators two years later that were measured, tail-notched, tagged and released. Their sex was also determined, since biologists want at least half to be females.

About 450,000 eggs were collected this summer, Linscombe said.

The effects of a change from 10% to 5% may not show up for 10, 15, even 20 years, he said.

“The key to everything is to monitor it and make sure the action you took is going to have the result you thought it would,” he said.

Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

AP

The Beluga whale swims in the lock of Notre Dame de la Garenne prior to be moved, in Saint-Pierre-l...
Associated Press

Stranded whale euthanized after removal from French river

PARIS (AP) — French authorities say a beluga whale stranded for several days in the Seine River has died after it was successfully removed from the French waterway. Veterinarian Ollivet Courtois said that during the rescue operation, the dangerously thin white mammal began to have breathing difficulties, and so experts decided to humanely euthanize the […]
3 hours ago
FILE - In this handout photo taken from video and released by Russian Defense Ministry Press Servic...
Associated Press

EXPLAINER: Fighting in Ukraine endangers big nuclear plant

Russia and Ukraine have accused each other of shelling Europe’s largest nuclear power plant, stoking international fears of a catastrophe on the continent. A look at the plant and the situation around it: EUROPE’S BIGGEST NUCLEAR PLANT The Zaporizhzhia plant is in southern Ukraine, near the town of Enerhodar on the banks of the Dnieper […]
3 hours ago
FILE - The logo of Toshiba Corp. is seen at a company's building in Kawasaki near Tokyo, on Feb. 19...
Associated Press

Japan’s Toshiba boosts profit on devices, auto sector demand

TOKYO (AP) — Toshiba reported a 44% improvement in profit in the last quarter as the Japanese technology giant worked to revamp its brand image and reassure investors about its management. Tokyo-based Toshiba Corp. said Wednesday that it recorded a 25.9 billion yen ($192 million) profit in the April-June period, up from 18 billion yen […]
3 hours ago
FILE - An employee of Honda Motor Co. cleans a Honda car displayed at its headquarters in Tokyo on ...
Associated Press

Japan’s Honda sees declining profits on semiconductor crunch

TOKYO (AP) — Honda’s fiscal first quarter profit fell 33% from last year as a global computer chip shortage, a pandemic-related lockdown in China and the rising costs of raw materials hurt the Japanese automaker. Tokyo-based Honda Motor Co. reported Wednesday that its profit totaled 149.2 billion yen ($1.1 billion) in the April-June quarter, down […]
3 hours ago
Conservative Party leadership candidate Liz Truss smiles during a visit to the Onside Future Youth ...
Associated Press

In race to win, UK Conservatives accused of ignoring crises

LONDON (AP) — As Britain swelters through a roasting summer, and braces for a cold financial reckoning in the fall, calls for the Conservative government to act are getting louder. But the Conservatives are busy choosing a new leader, through a prolonged party election whose priorities often seem remote from the country’s growing turmoil. Britons’ […]
3 hours ago
Conservative Party leadership candidate Liz Truss smiles during a visit to the Onside Future Youth ...
Sponsored Content by

LONDON (AP) — As Britain swelters through a roasting summer, and braces for a cold financial reckoning in the fall, calls for the Conservative government to act are getting louder. But the Conservatives are busy choosing a new leader, through a prolonged party election whose priorities often seem remote from the country’s growing turmoil. Britons’ […]

Sponsored Articles

...
Mayo Clinic Orthopedics and Sports Medicine

Why your student-athlete’s physical should be conducted by a sports medicine specialist

Dr. Anastasi from Mayo Clinic Orthopedics and Sports Medicine in Tempe answers some of the most common questions.
...
Day & Night Air Conditioning, Heating and Plumbing

Most plumbing problems can be fixed with regular maintenance

Instead of waiting for a problem to happen, experts suggest getting a head start on your plumbing maintenance.
...
Carla Berg, MHS, Deputy Director, Public Health Services, Arizona Department of Health Services

Update your child’s vaccines before kindergarten

So, your little one starts kindergarten soon. How exciting! You still have a few months before the school year starts, so now’s the time to make sure students-to-be have the vaccines needed to stay safe as they head into a new chapter of life.
Louisiana gators thrive, so farmers’ return quota may drop