WASHINGTON—Travis Dardenne and Jeffery Brown of Plaquemine, La., each pleaded guilty today in U.S. District Court in Baton Rouge, La., to a violation of the Lacey Act for knowingly attempting to acquire an American alligator in violation of the federal Endangered Species Act and Louisiana law, the Justice Department announced.
According to statements made in court, on Sept. 8, 2006, Dardenne, a licensed alligator hunter, and Brown, a licensed alligator helper, guided an out-of-state alligator sport hunter to an unapproved area, that is, an area for which Dardenne and Brown did not have appropriate state authorization to hunt. The sport hunter killed a trophy-sized alligator in the unapproved area.
Louisiana strictly regulates the hunting of alligators in the wild. Licensed alligator hunters, like Dardenne, are required to have hide, or CITES, tags for each alligator killed. Each tag specifies an area where alligator hunting is allowed. Licensed alligator helpers, like Brown, do not receive hide tags but they hunt with licensed alligator hunters and are expected to know what the licensed alligator hunter’s hide tags provide. It is illegal to kill an alligator in an area for which the licensed hunter does not have hide tags.
In addition to being listed as a threatened species on the United States’ list of Threatened and Endangered Species, the American alligator also is listed as a crocodilian species on Appendix II of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES). To better regulate trade in crocodilian species, the parties to CITES agreed to a program of requiring a uniquely numbered tag to be inserted into the skin of each animal immediately after it is killed. The tag is to remain with the skin as it travels in interstate or international commerce until it is manufactured into a final consumer product. The Secretary of the Interior put into effect special rules for American alligators that implement the CITES tagging program and regulate the harvest of alligators within the United States.
"American alligators are listed as threatened species and are given greater protection under the Endangered Species Act," said John C. Cruden, Acting Assistant Attorney General for the Justice Department's Environment and Natural Resources Division. "Licensed alligator guides are expected to comply with the law and individuals who choose to ignore it will be prosecuted."
Dardenne and Brown each face a maximum sentence of one year in prison and a $100,000 fine.
The case is being prosecuted by Claire Whitney of the Justice Department’s Environmental Crimes Section. The case was investigated by the Law Enforcement Division of the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries and the U. S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s Office of Law Enforcement.