Louisiana School Board Debates Alligator Egg Program

By ANDREW YAWN, The Advertiser

LAFAYETTE, La. (AP) — In mid-January, Terrebonne Parish College Board members met to make selections anticipated of a south Louisiana faculty district. They wanted to switch tools broken by Hurricane Ida. They usually needed to talk about utilizing FEMA funds to acquire a fridge truck.

However one agenda merchandise caught the eye of the board: A contract had expired, and the district needed to discover a new firm to promote its alligator eggs to.

“It was very humorous,” mentioned Alli Dugas, buying agent for Terrebonne Parish College District. “We have now a really new board so some had been stunned that that’s one thing we do right here.”

Dugas has spent her complete life among the many marshes of South Louisiana’s Terrebonne Parish, the place it’s not unusual to see alligators gliding by the darkish brackish waters of the bayou near her home.

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Nonetheless, when she started working for the Terrebonne Parish College District’s buying division six years in the past, she didn’t know leasing faculty land to alligator farmers can be a part of the job.

“I didn’t assume I’d be within the alligator egg enterprise,” Dugas mentioned with amusing.

A SCHOOL DISTRICT SIDE HUSTLE

Wildlife administration comes with the territory for Terrebonne Parish and different south Louisiana faculty districts.

Terrebonne Parish has greater than 18,000 acres of Part 16 land — land donated by the state authorities to high school methods way back to the 1800s, in line with Louisiana Workplace of State Lands historic information.

Jeb Linscomb, who oversees the Louisiana Division of Wildlife and Fisheries’ alligator administration program, mentioned many faculty methods opted to promote the land relatively than keep it. However in south Louisiana, the abundance of pure assets means colleges can revenue from them whereas taking part in wildlife conservation.

“There’s a whole lot of various things you possibly can lease these wetlands for,” Linscomb mentioned. “It’s not simply alligator eggs. It’s harvesting alligators, waterfowl, deer. In some instances, industrial crabbing and oil and gasoline.”

Terrebonne Parish leases its marshlands for a wide range of functions, together with searching and trapping. The varsity district even leases campsites and some boat launches, Dugas mentioned.

Alligator eggs don’t herald an enormous sum, Dugas mentioned. In 2019, the final 12 months alligator eggs had been collected, 150 nests yielded about 2,800 eggs and the district earned about $75,000 from the leases, in line with Dugas.

However alligator egg assortment has different advantages, and Linscomb mentioned the apply is essential to preserving the species and its habitat.

“It’s a big influence on the entire system,” Linscomb mentioned.

GOOD FOR SCHOOLS (AND ALLIGATORS)

Regardless of surviving for 35 million years, alligators had been a species on the brink by the Nineteen Sixties. A long time of overhunting left solely hundreds within the wild and landed the reptile on the endangered species listing in 1967.

However Louisiana’s alligator inhabitants has swelled to three million since 1972, when the Louisiana Division of Wildlife and Fisheries’ carried out a sustainable harvesting program.

Below this system, alligator farmers should buy leases to gather alligator eggs and lift them in captivity. Doing so will increase the hatchlings’ probabilities of survival, and the state presently requires that 10% be launched again into the wild as soon as they’re 4 ft in size.

As a result of alligators’ primarily inhabit the coastal parishes in Louisiana, the place 80% of their habitat is privately owned, incentivizing landowners to keep up the habitat was key to the conservation effort, Linscomb mentioned.

“It’s all centered round incentivizing safety,” Linscomb mentioned. “That advantages alligators and lots of of different species.”

It’s unknown what number of Louisiana faculty districts function alligator egg leases. Along with Terrebonne Parish, Cameron Parish College District put out a bid for alligator egg leases in 2021, in line with faculty information. Information archives and faculty board minutes present related bids by St. Martin and St. John faculty districts in previous years.

Terrebonne Parish faculty board member Matthew Ford was a type of who didn’t know concerning the alligator egg leases earlier than the January assembly.

And because the faculty system begins its seek for a brand new firm to pluck eggs from alligator nests within the parish, Ford mentioned he’s most glad that it advantages the bayous he grew up fishing in.

“Any income is useful, however what I recognize most is that the lands are protected,” Ford mentioned.

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