Louisiana: The State We're In; 306
Production assistance for the following program was provided in part through contributions to Friends of LPB. What do you think about what other people in parts of the country think about you? Do they think that - They probably think we're crazy fools doing the stuff we do. [Inaudible] [Inaudible] [Theme Music] [Theme Music]
Louisiana: The State We're In with Beth George and Ron Blome. Good evening. Welcome to this edition of Louisiana: The State We're In. This week ,we'll take you on an alligator hunt in Louisiana's coastal parishes as we examine the state's famous reptile. But, first this week's capitol highlights. For a time this week, it looked as though the long Jefferson Parish teachers strike would end following the personal intervention of Governor Edwards. He spent two long evenings shuttling between school board and teacher representatives trying to end the five-week-old walk out. Some two-thirds of the system's 3,000 teachers are on strike along with 466 school bus drivers. The Governor anted up the School Board's latest offer by kicking in a half-billion dollars in state aid to help repair some old school buildings. That action brought some criticism from some corners, but the Governor told reporters Wednesday that it wasn't all that unusual. Jefferson Parish does not participate very much in public works expenditures because it's a rather urban area. And I felt justified in committing the money because the school
system in Jefferson Parish has some serious needs in maintenance and repairs and we can justify the expenditure in that regard. Has that money ever been used before to repair schools? Oh yes, in many rural areas we frequently pave parking lots, driveways, repairing roofs or school board buildings or assist the school boards with particular construction problems which they have. Can that kind of swap out set a precedent if you have other school strikes in other parts of the state and them wanting state funds? I suppose so, but a local government somehow we don't need any excuses or precedents to come to the government for assistance. Somehow, they always find some justification for their needs. In this particular instance, I could not accommodate your request to assist on the salary schedules because of limitations in the application of the law. But it's absolutely permissible for me to assist them in the repair and maintenance of their public buildings and if by doing so it releases funds, which were otherwise committed, then
so be it. But even with the Governor's personal intervention, the proposed settlement began to break down as teachers and the board again split on money and other issues. For his part, Governor Edwards promised to stick with these efforts until the strike is settled. And if his warning of this week holds up, it could be one of many other settlements that will require his negotiating assistance. But I mean I just view it as part of my role as governor just as most public officials. The legislators in the area have been involved and been in close contact with me about it. That is why I reiterate, I think we need some provision in the law to outlaw strikes of that nature, but to provide some mechanism by which the disputes can be resolved without having the governor and legislators and other elected officials run down on each specific instance and spend hours as I did yesterday, a total of 7 hours, trying to resolve a conflict which has been a long time brewing and which has long-term consequences for the school system in Jefferson Parish. Secretary of State Paul Hardy, a candidate for governor, dropped a small bombshell on that race this
week as he called in reporters to talk about some dirty tricks on the campaign trail. Some 10 days ago Lieutenant Leland R. Dennison, a technical investigator of region one of the Louisiana State Police, received information that my state headquarters was being bugged. Lieutenant Dennison immediately instituted an investigation with the following results. A radio transmitter was located in the wall of my state headquarters at 3621 Government Street in Baton Rouge. This transmitter monitored phone calls at my headquarters. Candidate Hardy went on to detail how the bugging device had been removed in the presence of several FBI agents, and he said the federal government already had three suspects in mind. Later in
the day, U.S. attorney Don Beckner disagreed, saying his office had no suspects and had not established whether an offense had been committed. Hardy told reporters that several other campaign incidents were under investigation, but he declined to link earlier acts of violence and a threat on his life to the discovery of the bugging equipment. I can assure you that this act of violation will in no way deter me or cause me to change my campaign strategy. I will continue to speak out on the issues and on what I believe in my campaign for governor. One of the issues Hardy has been plugging in his campaign for governor is his dislike of labor bosses. This week Victor Bussie, president of the AFL-CIO, said he and his wife had been asked to contribute to Hardy's campaign, but had refused. At Hardy's press conference, he conceded they might have been invited to a large Hardy fundraiser. Really, I know, that we sent several letters out. It obviously was
a mistake in even thinking that they would buy tickets to the function. A new poll in that governor's race commissioned by the Baton Rouge Morning Advocate and State Times was released this week. It shows Republican Dave Treen in the lead at 27 percent, up 2 percent over August. The biggest drop in the poll went to Lieutenant Governor Jimmy Fitzmorris, who has slipped from 24 to 17 percent. Paul Hardy moved up one point to 15 percent, while Louis Lambert remains steady at 12 percent. Sonny Mouton and Bubba Henry each picked up a point apiece, at eight and seven percent, respectively. The number of undecided voters stood at 14 percent. Two Baton Rouge black political groups have become the subject of a federal grand jury investigation into alleged vote buying. Records of People Incorporated and the Gus Young Civic Association have been subpoenaed by U.S. Attorney Don Beckner who say local candidates have been paying local organizations for their political support. In response to the probe, state NAACP president Emmitt Douglas has asked U.S. Attorney General Benjamin Civiletti to stop what he called a transparent attempt to discredit
certain black leaders and their organization. Well, Ron, State Agriculture Commissioner Gil Dozier, another target of U.S. attorney Don Beckner, behind his major challenger in that Baton Rouge newspaper poll. This week, Dozier turned over business records to a federal grand jury and asked for a public review of the matter by the U.S. attorney. A candidate for state education superintendent Tom Clausen said this week that he was quoted out of context when he acknowledged that he hired legislators' girlfriends for jobs in the Education Department while serving under former superintendent Louis Michot. Clausen later clarified his remarks by saying that he hired the friends of legislators when they were qualified because it's a fact of life that the lawmakers approve the department's funding. Ron, we're going to move from politics to a very different kind of story this week. The State We're In crew paid a visit to South Louisiana and we went on an alligator hunt. It's not just for the money. I don't miss a lot of fun and we enjoy hunting them and, uh,
doing everything. At night, we cook our big alligator suppers, and put different people to come and eat supper and drink. What do you think about what other people in other parts of the country think about you? They probably think we're crazy, crazy fools doing the stuff we do. It's alligator season in Cameron Parish, and from the air the swampy coastline of southern Louisiana shows just how favorable an environment exists for the alligator. That wasn't always the case. In recent years, the alligator population had declined in Louisiana, and, in other parts
of the country, it was in trouble. In 1973, the alligator was put on the endangered species list by the federal government. But as most people in South Louisiana know, the alligator has come back with a vengeance. Experts estimate there are some 300,000 alligators in the 12 coastal parishes where alligator season is now open. About 8 percent of that population is fair game for local hunters who secure tags and licenses from Wildlife and Fisheries and the OK from landowners. For hunters like Jerry Cannick, Richard Borque and James Hebert, hunting or harvesting alligators is about as easy as falling off a log. But for the State We're In crew, it was an experience to be recalled and recounted. (music - Amos Moses) [Amos Moses song] [Amos Moses song]
[Amos Moses song] [Amos Moses song] Alligator hunting from the back of a pickup truck. Well, that's not exactly how I envisioned a search for the big gator. But it does appear to be the most practical way, especially if the road runs right along the bayou. Our hunters had baited about a dozen hooks, using blackbirds suspended about a foot above the water. But this afternoon the alligators weren't taking the bait. The opening day of the season, they caught about 35 gators. But today it was going to be a little harder. Jerry and Richard had some other lines set that had to be reached by water, but even a boatride down one of the many waterways crisscrossing the fields failed to turn up any game. But the veteran hunter in our party, James Hebert, or T'man as he was called, spotted a gator swimming about 50 yards away. It wasn't a giant, but looked to be about the four foot minimum and that was good enough.
[natural sound] [natural sound] [natural sound] [inaudible] [inaudible] Get him, Jerry! [natural sound] [natural sound] [natural sound] Get out of there.
Get out of there. Hey, you better swim when you're out here. Get out of this green stuff. [inaudible] [inaudible] It's deep here! Now, I'm walking. I knew I killed him. I believe you too. Black. I hit the tree first, Don. [inaudible] [natural sound] [natural sound] The next step in this gator hunt is a quick cut of the flap in the hide to show it's from this year's crop and the insertion of a state tag on the tail to show it's all legal.
Yeah, we got those. Sometimes...it's 25 or 30 times to hook a gator. Jerry, why do you hunt gators? Well, it's just something to do and make a little bit of spare cash on the side to help Uncle Sam. He takes most of it anyway, so might as well help him out. Is it fun? Do you all like it? Yeah, I really do like it. It's like hunting ducks or hunting anything else. Once you get used to it, you like it. You go out in your morning, early morning. You trap your gator, you hunt them, come back and you skin them, what you have on the lines. You come back the next day, you run on canals and shoot a few up. And you go out and you swim for them to pick them up. You know, to a lot of people who aren't familiar with it, I guess in other parts of the states, and really other parts of the country, it's kind of frightening. Yeah. Does it ever scare you? Well, just that one time that old boy shot the one in the bottom part of the jaw and it come up and was trying to catch me and it bit the boat. That there was about the worst thing that really happened. Most of the time you shoot them, they go underwater and they'll sink, and you go down you can catch them, or hook them [inaudible] or tie them with a rope and pull them ashore and shoot them again if you have to, but
that was the only time it got worse. You haven't had a season down here in a long time. This is the first year. Were people excited about it? What was the feeling around here? Well, this last year we didn't have a season, but about four years in a row before that we had a season and we could hunt. And last year I wish we could have had one, but they wouldn't let us because it is on the endangered species of alligator. This year they got it off, and so they let us go and hunt it, and I hope we can have one from now on because we do have a lot. We seen one on the road awhile ago. You see an alligator sitting up on the road. So we know we have plenty of gators left. Are people excited about it? Most of us em down here are, yeah, and a lot people come from like Lafayette and Abbeville and they charge us to come get the meat and just give it to them. We could sold it this year, but there's no use to try to sell gator meat. You have a son, a young son. A young one, yeah. Is he going to hunt alligators? Yeah, we had a big one, a 12-foot one, and we took a picture of it. He got on top of it and he rode it. When the gator was dead, we took a picture of it Supposed to put it in the [inaudible]. Everybody else has been in the paper so. Do you think a lot of people, what do you think about what other people in parts of the country think about you? Do they think that, uh... They probably think we're
crazy. That's about it. Probably, you're a bunch of crazy fools doing the stuff we do and I think some people are crazy hunting them bears and everything. I don't believe I'd climb a tree with a bear around me. For most of the alligator hunters, this is not only a sport, but a business. A ban on the international trade of alligator hides has been lifted, and there is hope that foreign buyers may push the price for the hides up to $17 or $18 a foot. The group we hunted with said they already had about $20,000 worth of hides. Preparing those hides is a time-consuming process. First, the skinning of the gator requires care so that the hide will not be damaged while the hunter peels the skin away from the meat of the gator. The next process is scraping and washing the hides, and James Hebert is the expert there.
I'm just scraping the meat off of it so you can salt it. That way if you leave the meat on it it won't protect the hide. You scrap all the flesh you can off of it before you salt it, so that the salt will cure the hide instead of the meat. The skins are also salted to draw the moisture out of the hides and, if you're lucky, two alligators will make a pair of $1,400 boots. A. B. Trahan, who works offshore for an oil company most of the year has been hunting alligators since he was a child and says it's more than just a job. It's not a job. It's just all in the fun that you have doing it. We really enjoy doing it and it's not that much work involved in it. It's just a lot of fun. A lot of people will cook some of the meat, but you don't like that. Well, they cook it, uh, a real good cooking. But, I can't, after I fool with them, I can't eat them. Now down here a lot of people love it. I mean, people with me will come in here and get the meat and they love it.
The astounding comeback of the alligator in South Louisiana is no accident. Although some biologists say the alligator here was never an endangered species, they do concede that the increased population is due, in large measure, to strict enforcement of hunting laws and interest by landowners and state wildlife officials. The site of most alligator research is a sprawling Rockefeller Wildlife Refuge located in the coastal marshes of southwest Louisiana. This 84,000-acre site is the southern end of the Mississippi Flyway and, therefore, serves as the wintering home for numerous water fowl. But the prime research remains the alligator. Biologist Dave Richard showed us around the gator hatchery. These are our nesting boxes. If you'll look right over there, that's one that's just hatched. See the eggs? Right, that's one that's just pipping, you see. Pips just like a
chicken or anything else. It pips right out of the eggs. Yeah, that's how they come out of the eggs. Are they very fragile, the eggs? Yeah, they're pretty fragile, but there's, you know, they have the inside membrane just like a chicken egg or whatever. So you can probably do some cross information with poultry? Right, and we do. Right now, we're also working with egg thickness between pen gators and wild gators also. Then after they come out from here, we will mark them. It depends on what study we're doing with them. We mark them and then let's say, when we come back a month later to check their growth or whatever, we're checking on them, then we can determine which tank they came out of which or whatever. These are about a week old. They're, uh, after they're hatched, we take them and put them in here and we feed them.
We feed them like ground fish and vitamins in here. And you hear that sound? That's the sound they make when they call the mother to open the nest. They make that little sound. And how quickly do they grow? In here they grow faster, you see. Now, let's say these gators, when they're hatched in the wild, they'll stay about this size. They'll grow a little bit before the winter. Then they won't grow and they'll stay around the nest with the mother. OK then next spring they'll start eating, they'll feed and they'll grow to be about 18 inches, 2 feet long at a year and a quarter before the next winter. How are, now you're keeping these in here and basically they're kept at a warm temperature? That's right, about 85 year round. And these gators, some of these gators, will go to farmers and and some of them we do research on.
And we're going to do research on approximately 800 on sex determination. The research into the life cycle of the alligator is extensive at the Rockefeller Refuge, and the man in charge of the project is Ted Joanen, a biologist whose expertise on alligators is recognized worldwide. Yes, we have a lot of interest, I guess, in the past 10 years with the crocodilians in general. I guess that's a wildlife species that probably had very little study done on it. We really met this in the late '50s and early '60s when we went to the literature to try and look at some of the management requirements, some of the life history information that had been accumulated. We found very little. So this refuge, this Rockefeller Refuge, was assigned by our department to conduct an intensive life history study. Also, about in the past 10 years, a lot of other scientists throughout the world have been studying the croc, some in Africa and Australia and New Guinea and we've
seen a real, a tremendous amount of interest generated in crocodilian biology and say in the last 10 years. I daresay that the average person doesn't know a great deal about alligators. Often there are very many misunderstandings about the creature. Should a human being be afraid of an alligator? Yes, I think so. The animal is a very large predator, and some of these bulls get up to 700 - 750 pounds, and they do certainly have the potential. The female when she's nesting - some are aggressive. Not all of them, but we found a small portion of the population is aggressive. The alligator that hangs around a boat dock or swimming pool or a swimming hole or a lake that's frequented a lot by water skiers could be a dangerous animal in the respect that, if you feed that animal, he will become dependent on man for food. Then, he loses his fear of man, and these usually are large males, animals 9, 10, 11, 12 feet long and then they will attack if not fed. We've seen this
happen, not so much in Louisiana. We're very fortunate here. But in Florida, the state of Florida records about 15 attacks on humans each year. Somewhere in the neighborhood of three to four fatalities have been recorded in the state of Florida by large alligators. And these were animals that were fed, usually by humans. And then young children would go in and swim in these areas and then these large animals would attack the children. So I think the safest thing to do is an alligator should stay wild. He should not be fed. He should not be domesticated, because he is an animal. As a biologist concerned with preservation of species, are you concerned that humans may encroach on the alligators' habitat? No, I don't really think so, because these marshes are maintained as wetlands primarily for water fowl, trapping and hunting, and there's a tremendous
interest here to maintain the marshes as marshes, as wetlands. Mr. Joanen, why should you hunt alligators? Why should they be harvested like this? Well, we feel that the alligator should be harvested, simply because of the fact it more or less balances the ecosystem. We have seen a tremendous increase in the population. He is a predator. He does take a lot of nutria and raccoons from the marsh, animals that these landowners do use during trapping season, do have to make a living on. And also it gives the landowner a monetary return for managing his marshes as wetlands -- in other words, rather than draining the marsh and putting it into cattle pasture or something like this. So the alligator more or less serves to foot the bill to pay for those marshes out there, to pay for the, for the different shore birds that will use the marsh. Also, it will add additional protection to the alligator. These landowners are harvesting the animal now, a portion of the population now, and they will definitely get a good
price, we hope, for these hides, so they will almost be added enforcement personnel to stop the poachers. They'll make sure no one will poach on their land. Correct. No more than they would let someone go on their land and kill one of their cattle. They will not let anyone go out there and kill an alligator. So, in a sense, you are sort of domesticating, but not really. No, we feel we are ensuring the future of the alligator. Total protection is not the answer for a management of a species like the alligator. If we would continue under total protection, the population would definitely decline simply through malicious killing and indiscriminant killing. The harvesting of this year's alligator crop ends on October 7th. Most hunters hope there will be a season again next year and, if there is, the alligator that got away this year should watch out for the Louisiana alligator man. (music from "alligator man") [Music]
[Music] We'll be back next week in more familiar political waters, and we hope you'll join us then when we take a look at the Southern Governors Conference and a new report on air pollution. Until then, I'm Beth George for Ron Blome. Good evening.
- Episode Number
- Producing Organization
- Louisiana Public Broadcasting
- Contributing Organization
- Louisiana Public Broadcasting (Baton Rouge, Louisiana)
- AAPB ID
- Series Description
- Louisiana: The State We're In is a magazine featuring segments on local Louisiana news and current events.
- Alligator hunting; Gator Hunt; Gardy Press conference; Governor on Teacher Strike; Jeff. Teach. strike and Gov....Hardy is bugged
- Broadcast Date
- Asset type
- Media type
- Moving Image
Copyright Holder: Louisiana Educational Television Authority
Producing Organization: Louisiana Public Broadcasting
- AAPB Contributor Holdings
Louisiana Public Broadcasting
Identifier: LSWI-19790928 (Louisiana Public Broadcasting Archives)
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- Chicago: “Louisiana: The State We're In; 306,” 1979-09-28, Louisiana Public Broadcasting, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC, accessed September 30, 2022, http://americanarchive.org/catalog/cpb-aacip-17-14nkb5dp.
- MLA: “Louisiana: The State We're In; 306.” 1979-09-28. Louisiana Public Broadcasting, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Web. September 30, 2022. <http://americanarchive.org/catalog/cpb-aacip-17-14nkb5dp>.
- APA: Louisiana: The State We're In; 306. Boston, MA: Louisiana Public Broadcasting, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Retrieved from http://americanarchive.org/catalog/cpb-aacip-17-14nkb5dp