Alligators still in demand, but price just isnít right

Heather R. Breaux
September 30, 2009 at 10:36 am  | Mobile Reader | Pring this storyPrint 

Hunters are getting paid less for alligators even though the price of shoes or purses hasnít fallen, St. Charles Parish wildlife and nuisance control officer Kenny Schmill says.
Hunters are getting paid less for alligators even though the price of shoes or purses hasnít fallen, St. Charles Parish wildlife and nuisance control officer Kenny Schmill says.
With little market for alligator hides, hunters are staying home rather than heading out into local swamps and marshes after the big, toothy reptiles.

St. Charles Parish wildlife nuisance control officer Kenny Schmill says that the demand is there, but the price just isnít right.

ďEveryone wants to blame the economy when itís really the middle man or the processors who have lowered the buying price,Ē Schmill said. ďThe price of alligator purses and shoes havenít gone down, which means that the hides are still in demand, but our hunters are getting paid a lot less.Ē

Last year, processors offered alligator trappers an average of $35 per foot. This year hunters are only being paid around $8 a foot.

Once the processor purchases an alligator from a hunter, it is then prepared to be sold to a manufacturer, currently at a much higher price than what the animal was originally bought for.

For example, a trapper is paid approximately $64 for an 8-foot alligator by a processor. The processor then sells that repitleís hide to a manufacturer for $4.85 per centimeter, which is measured across the animalís chest.

An 8-foot alligatorís chest measures about 62 centimeters, so the processor sells the hide to the manufacturer for $300, making a profit of $236 -† thatís three times more than what the trapper was paid.

†ďThe majority of the trappers donít see the point in hunting this year, especially since they wonít make a profit,Ē said Schmill.

Louisianaís wild alligator season begins each year on the first Wednesday of September and continues for 30 days, ending this year on Oct. 7.

ďNinety-five percent of our trappers have already turned in their tags,Ē added Schmill. ďBut things will get better. This isnít the first time alligator hunters have had to deal with low buying prices. It may take two or three years before we see last seasonís prices, but weíll get there.Ē

Schmill points out that the alligator meat market is more profitable for hunters and trappers.

ďBecause no one really harvested alligators this season, you can pretty much name your price on alligator meat,Ē he said.

Noel Kinler, head of the alligator program for the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries, estimates that hunters in the state trapped about 1,700 alligators during the first week of the hunting season - compared to 10,000 in the first week of a normal year.




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