For the last three years, a reality TV shows different characters from south Louisiana hunting alligators throughout alligator season. The show depicts how hunters hunt and sell their gators.
It also shows the danger of bringing an alligator into the boat, as well as battle between the hunter and the alligator before it gets into the boat.
Pulling up to a hooked alligator in a boat, shooting it and then pulling it into a boat does not make for good TV action. Often there is a struggle between the hunter and the alligator before the reptile lands in the boat.
That struggle between hunter and alligator and the gator eventually shot in the head has those in the alligator industry worried that based on what people see on TV, it is casting a negative view of how alligators are harvested.
“The way alligator hunting is portrayed on the show is 99 percent not how it is done,” said Noel Kinler, who is an alligator expert for the Louisiana Wildlife and Fisheries. He said the constant fight between the alligator and hunter is not typical It is entertainment, not true alligator hunting, he added.
“It could put alligator hunting in Louisiana in a bad light.”
Kinler said the Louisiana Wildlife and Fisheries has already contacted the producers of “Swamp People” and voiced its concerns about the negative portrayal to one reality TV show, that the cable show is bringing to an already vulnerable alligator industry.
Wayne Sagrera, owner of Gator Farms in Vermilion Parish, is worried that what happened to the worldwide fur industry could one day happen to the worldwide alligator industry because of “Swamp People.”
Back in the 1980s, the fur industry was doing well all over the world. But that changed when People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals and The Humane Society of the United States began showing how small furry animals were trapped and killed by hunters. Society viewed the trapping of the fur animals as negative, so they did not want to wear fur coats anymore. The market crashed and has never recovered 20 years later.
Sagrera is concerned that the same thing may happen to the alligator industry. Millions of people watch a least six to 10 alligators killed every episode. They are all shot in the head by a 22 caliber rifle. Some enjoy watching the gator die, while others think the show is cruel.
He said it “creates a negative image” for the industry.
The industry is slowly making a comeback and the prices are beginning to climb. In 2008, a certain length alligator was fetching $34 per foot. The next year, because of little demand for alligator in the fashion market, the price crashed to $7 per foot for the same size gator. That price has slowly climbed to $13 per foot in 2010 and $17 per foot in 2011.
Both Sagrera and Kinler agreed that the popularity of reality TV shows had no effect on the rising price of the alligator hides worldwide. Kinler said the people who those shows do not buy as much alligator fashion as those overseas. Kinler credits the higher price for alligator skins in 2011 to supply and demand. Because of the drought and salt water intrusion last year, there were not as many alligators to be harvested.