Louisiana Father and Son Plead Guilty to Guiding Illegal Hunts for Protected Alligators
WASHINGTON—Larry Dees Sr., 66, and Larry Dees Jr., 37, both of Maringuoin, La., each pleaded guilty today in U.S. District Court in Baton Rouge, La., to two violations of the Lacey Act for leading sport hunters to unauthorized areas to hunt American alligators in violation of the federal Endangered Species Act and Louisiana law, the Justice Department announced.
According to statements made in court, on Sep. 10, 2009, and on September 24-25, 2009, Dees Sr. and Dees Jr., licensed alligator helpers, guided out-of-state alligator sport hunters to unapproved areas, that is, areas for which they did not have appropriate state authorization to hunt. On Sep. 10, the sport hunter killed a 9'4" trophy-sized alligator.
In plea agreements filed in court, the United States and Larry Dees Sr. and Larry Dees Jr. recommend, in addition to the sentence imposed by the court, that the Dees serve a three year term of probation during which they will be prohibited from hunting as follows: for one year of the probation they will be prohibited from engaging worldwide in all hunting activities, including guiding, with any kind of weapon; for the remaining two years of probation they will be prohibited from engaging worldwide in all commercial alligator hunting activities, including guiding, with any kind of weapon. The plea agreements are subject to approval by the court. Larry Dees Sr. has been licensed since 1992. Larry Dees Jr. has been licensed since 2002.
In the 1960s alligators were classified as endangered due to over harvesting. In order to save this important natural and economic resource, Louisiana imposed strict regulations on alligator hunting in the wild. As a result, the alligator population rebounded. The law requires that licensed alligator helpers must have hide, or CITES (Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species), tags for the property on which they are hunting and must affix a tag to an alligator after the kill. Each tag is specific to a particular parcel of land. Annually, state biologists review alligator population data and decide where alligators may be hunted in order to preserve the species. Tags are issued for only those properties. Licensed helpers must hunt on tag-specific land. It is illegal to kill an alligator in an area for which the licensed helper does not have appropriate tags.
The American alligator is listed as a threatened species on the U.S. list of Threatened and Endangered Species. It also is listed as a crocodilian species on Appendix II of the 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 alligator 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 U.S. Secretary of the Interior promulgated special rules for American alligators that implement the CITES tagging program and regulate the harvest of alligators within the United States, including the requirement that American alligators must be taken in compliance with state law.
Larry Dees Sr. and Larry Dees Jr. each face a maximum sentence of one year in prison and a $200,000 fine.
The case is being prosecuted by Claire Whitney of the Environmental Crimes Section of the Department of Justice. 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.