Homa, Louisiana — With alligator season underway in Louisiana and meat prices skyrocketing, those within the industry are hoping for a good year.
Alligators bring an estimated $250 million to the state annually, according to the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries.
Meat prices are rising while skin prices are falling as the market is oversaturated, industry insiders said.
Wild alligator skins sold for $7.50 a foot last year, bringing in $780,900 across Louisiana, according to state statistics. Farmed alligators were sold by the centimeter at $6.50 per centimeter for a total of $66.29 million.
Meat alone brings in more than $10 million a year in Louisiana, says Jebryn Linscombe, alligator program manager for the Wildlife and Fisheries Service.
Last year, 1.1 million pounds of farm-raised alligator meat sold in Louisiana for a total of $7.8 million, according to the agency’s 2020-21 annual report. , sold 315,100 pounds of meat for a combined $2.2 million.
For hunters, it’s informative and fun.
“I drove 2,000 miles for this,” said 72-year-old Larry Cassler of Ontario, Canada. Together with Houma’s hunting guides Nicolas Cocquet and Joshua Bridges, he caught and shot two of the three crocodiles salvaged in the parish of Terrebonne on 2 September.
Gibson’s Randy Rochelle and his son Randy Rochelle Jr. got the tag to hunt and kill 25 alligators this season, which runs from August 31 to October 31. Two caught four alligators on Sept. 2, and Rochelle said there were about four. This will be his first year hunting alligators, and in total he expects to earn $2,000.
“It’s been good for us,” said Rochel Sr. “It’s not a big deal, but you can get your money back and get something new.”
Linscombe estimates that 20,000 to 25,000 wild gators will be harvested across the state, barring storms that disrupt the season.
Yvette Pitre is a local crocodile processor with cut-offs that buy from both hunters and farms. Her husband, Tub Her Pitre, took over the Louisiana Bayou Her Bites business from her father in 2002. The Pitores say people’s taste buds have become more adventurous and demand for alligator meat has increased since the History Channel show “Swamp People” launched in her 2010.
“We were able to push the market from $1.50 to $2. We gave it directly to the fishermen, because without them our business would not exist,” said Yvette Pitre. He added that many hunters lost their homes and jobs due to Hurricane Ida.
The company sells alligators in small bags filled with red or white meat. White meat sells for about $12 to $14 a pound in stores, while red meat sells for $7 to $8 a pound.
Linscombe said the demand and price increases are in line with what we’re seeing across the state.
A typical crocodile received by the Pitres is about 7 feet long and sells for about $100, yielding 20 to 30 pounds of meat. Pitres is open all year round, but about 75% of the business is done during crocodile season. She said the seasons are crazy and people are manually handling hauls day and night.
Al Mahler, owner of Big Al’s Seafood in Houma, buys and sells alligators for his restaurant and is hoping for a good season. He also received a tag to harvest his 13 alligators on land he owns. Mahler said the season was sluggish as of Sept. 2, but expected it to get busy soon due to the Labor Day holiday.
Linscombe said state regulations and controls on wild crocodiles have brought them back from a once endangered state.
According to state officials, Louisiana’s wild alligator population has grown from less than 100,000 to more than 2 million over the past 50 years. Plus, he has nearly a million alligators on his farm in Louisiana.
Linscom said the tag system gives landowners an incentive to protect the alligators. The number of tags issued each year is based on the crocodile’s fertility.
“I mean, it’s a commercial harvest, so essentially my predecessor created a program that was financially beneficial to landowners. It gave them financial incentives to protect their resources.” That’s why they recovered so dramatically,” he said.
Linscombe said the regulatory method has been so successful that other countries are starting to copy it.
“Alligator populations are at their healthiest in the last 100 years,” he said. “For example, rather than trying to outlaw the capture of crocodiles, countries in Africa with endangered crocodiles are trying to come up with capture programs that give value to indigenous cultures. Rather than seeing them as dangerous animals and killing them all,