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How Does the Alligator Ranching Industry Practice Sustainability?

March 19th, 2021

Believe it or not, the Louisiana Alligator Program of Protection is arguably the best conservation program for any animal on earth. In the late 1950s, the wild alligator population in Louisiana had declined to unacceptably low numbers of about 150,000. In response to the rapid decline, the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries (LWL&F) began scientific studies to understand the American Alligator and its plight to survive.

By the 1970s, after nearly 20 years of aggressive study of the American Alligator, the LWL&F had formulated a plan to dramatically increase this protected species’ population. However, one large problem they faced was no funding or financial support on the horizon.

The Re-Opening of The Wild Alligator Harvesting Program

The solution was the re-opening in 1978 of the wild alligator harvesting program, which had been closed since 1963 to protect the species. This re-opening was not seen as a necessity to control the wild alligator population but as a funding source to implement this amazing program of protection.

Strangely, it was determined that this species could only be protected through hunting and reduction of the population. An income source was created by charging for licenses to hunt and additional fees to support this protection program. The successful accumulation of funds continued, and in the mid-’80s, the LWL&F began the alligator ranching program of protection, and the “Alligator Ranching Industry” was born.

What Is the Alligator Ranching Program?

This program allows Ranchers to harvest eggs out of the marsh, with the understanding that 17% of those alligators hatched must be returned to the marsh once they reach an average size of 4 feet. The program’s continued success has so dramatically increased the population, that through the years, the alligator return rate has been reduced substantially.

The program has become recognized worldwide as the “Sustainable Use” Story and possibly the most successful protection program for any animal in the world. The basic philosophy, ranchers, harvest all the alligator eggs that can be found in the marshes of Louisiana. They incubate, hatch, and raise those alligators to an average size of four feet. Then they return more 4 footers to the marshes of Louisiana than Mother Nature has allowed to survive prior to man’s involvement.

Astonishing Facts

  • Alligators lay 30-40 eggs per nest.

  • Survival Rate from egg to 4-foot alligator:
    • 6%-8% in Mother Nature
    • 85% with Man’s Intervention

  • Improved hatch on the Ranch is due to:
    • No predation of eggs by raccoons, snakes, birds, etc.
    • No high tides due to strong southerly winds or hurricanes.
    • The loving care and financial incentive of the Alligator Rancher.
    • The improved survival rate  (nearly 100%) of the baby alligator once born on the Ranch is due to:
    • No predation of hatchlings and yearlings by snakes, birds, fish, alligators, mammals, etc.
    • The loving care and financial incentive of the Rancher

  • Ranchers return legal requirement:
    • In 1988, with a wild population of 500,000, 17% of the hatch was returned thru 1999.
    • In 2000, with a population of 1.5 million, 14% of the hatch was returned thru 2008.
    • In 2009, with a population of 2.5 million, 12% of the hatch was returned thru 2017.
    • In 2018, with a population of 3.5 million, 10% of the hatch was returned thru the present.

  • Since the inception of this amazing Program, Ranchers have returned over one (1) million alligators.
  • The survivability of the alligator returned to the wild from ranches has proven to be much higher than ever believed possible.

If you’re looking for a way to support this amazing program of protection, consider purchasing some of our alligator leather products available at our shop. To learn more about our gators and services, please contact us today with any questions you may have!