August 23, 2012 9:59:22 AM
BATON ROUGE, La. -- Louisiana wildlife officials say alligator hunting violations are rising, and one reason appears to be the popularity of outdoor reality television shows.
The number of alligator violations has risen steadily since 2009, and some people arrested in recent years told wildlife agents they were copying what they saw on reality TV, said Col. Winton Vidrine, head of the enforcement division for the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries.
"While these shows offer a high level of entertainment, they do not offer a lot of information on how to legally harvest an alligator," he said.
The History Channel's show Swamp People, which features alligator hunting, started in August 2010.
There were 60 gator hunting violations in 2007 and in 2008; 69 in 2009 and in 2010, 80 last year, and 98 so far this year, according to a news release.
Most are for possessing an alligator out of season, hunting alligators without a license and possessing an alligator without a license. First-offense illegal possession can mean 120 days in jail and a $950 fine.
Terrebonne, Lafourche, Assumption, St. Mary, St. Martin, St. James and St. John parishes account for 42 of this year's violations, up from two in 2010, the news release said.
Unregulated hunting in the first half of the 1900s endangered alligators. Hunting was stopped in 1960, and resumed in 1972 with tight regulations that have helped the species rebound to an estimated 1.5 million in Louisiana.
The department assigns harvest tags for specific areas, with the numbers based on each site's alligator population.
Hunters must apply for tags before each season, and must either own the land where they hunt or have permission to hunt there. A guide with tags and a hunting license can take people with a sport hunter license on recreational hunts; residents can also get tags to hunt alligators on public lands or lakes. An alligator sport hunter license costs $25 for Louisiana residents and $150 for non-residents.
More than 870,000 wild alligators have been harvested since 1972.
"With the upcoming opening of alligator season, hunters are reminded to utilize their tags only on the approved property and that all alligators caught on their lines must be harvested and immediately tagged," said Noel Kinler, LDWF's alligator program manager.
The 30-day season opens on the last Wednesday of August in the east zone -- all of 13 southeastern parishes and part of eight others -- and the first Wednesday of September in the rest of the state.