A state Representative in Louisiana wants to expand hunting opportunities in hopes of reducing a burgeoning population of wild alligators. With House Concurrent Resolution No. 132, Rep. Chad Brown of Plaquemine directed the Louisiana Department of Wildlife & Fisheries (LDWF) to increase the number of commercial hunting tags for gators, reinstate gator hunting bonus tags, and increase opportunities for recreational alligator hunting. The measure passed the House Natural Resources Committee without any opposition on May 31.
“We’re being overrun by alligators,” Brown told the Natural Resources Committee on Wednesday while describing his bill. “Two Sundays ago, my neighbor called me and said: ‘Be careful. There’s an alligator underneath your wife’s car.’ These are normal occurrences in my neighborhood.”
Louisiana is home to more than three million alligators. According to state officials, roughly two million of those are wild while the remaining one million reside on farms, where they’re harvested for leather and meat. Florida, by comparison, has an estimated 1.3 million gators.
Gator numbers in the Bayou State hit all-time lows in the 1960s and 70s, prompting a complete moratorium on hunting that ran from 1962 to 1972. But as gator numbers rebounded—a resurgence that’s been called one of America’s greatest conservation success stories—hunting opportunities increased as well. Today, nearly 3,000 licensed hunters pursue alligators in Louisiana each year.
Despite increases in tag allotments over the years, the state’s gator populations have continued to proliferate—along with nuisance calls from Louisiana residents reporting run-ins with problem gators. And the gator explosion is having negative impacts on hunters and anglers, Brown said. “We have commercial fisherman that say their nets and traps are being torn up,” he told the Committee. “I know duck hunters who won’t take their retrievers to certain duck holes because there are too many alligators in the water.”
Other representatives echoed Brown’s sentiments during the hearing, saying they’ve fielded similar calls from their constituents. “They’re coming up smaller channels, sloughs, and bayous and into the towns,” said Rep. Troy Romero of Jeff Davis Parish. “It’s getting to be a problem.”
Brown’s bill stops short of giving the LDWF any specific numbers for his proposed tag and bag limit increases. But it does recommend that the department reinstate a “bonus tag system” discontinued in 2009 that would allow hunters to take alligators measuring six feet or less. It also points out that recreational alligator hunting is currently only available for licensed hunters who are accompanied by a guide or a commercial alligator hunter and says that the LDWF should increase hunting opportunities “as an additional measure to control the population.”