WASHINGTON - Gregory K. Dupont, 38, of Plaquemine, La., pleaded guilty today in U.S. District Court in Baton Rouge, La., to one felony count of illegally guiding out-of-state sport hunters to unauthorized areas to hunt American alligators (Alligator mississippiensis) in violation of the Lacey Act, the U.S. Endangered Species Act and Louisiana law, the Justice Department announced.
Sentencing in this case has been scheduled for June 20, 2012. Dupont was also ordered to surrender custody of his firearms to pre-trial services.
Gregory K. Dupont was a licensed alligator hunter, who, in September 2006, guided his clients to an area which was unapproved, that is an area for which he did not have the required Convention on International Trade of Endangered Species (CITES) tags. During this illegal hunt, Dupont took his clients to a property in Iberville Parish, La., where one of his clients killed an American alligator. Dupont tagged the alligator illegally with a tag for another property. He did not have tags permitting them to hunt in that area at all.
In 1967, American alligators were listed as an endangered species because the total population size in the United States reached drastically low numbers due to severe poaching and overharvesting. This protected status and of the Lacey Act, the Endangered Species Act and regulations promulgated by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the state of Louisiana led to the recovery of the American alligator population, and American alligators were down-listed to threatened status in 1987. The American alligator is currently listed on Appendix II of CITES, which is the only treaty that deals with international trade in protected species. There are 175 member countries, including the United States. The success of the American alligator conservation program in the United States is second only to that of the Bald Eagle.
Because American alligators remain federally protected, alligator hunting is regulated by federal and state rules and regulations, which require, among other things, the tagging of all harvested alligators. The integrity of the tagging system is crucial to Louisiana’s alligator management program because it enables the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries to monitor harvest areas, alligator size and the number of alligators taken. This system depends in significant part upon the honesty and self-regulation of Louisiana’s licensed hunters for its continued success.
In Louisiana, an allotted number of alligator hide tags are issued to licensed hunters. Each tag may be used for one alligator only, and Louisiana law requires alligator hunters to hunt only on property for which hide tags are issued. The areas where alligator hunting is permitted are determined on a yearly basis by wildlife biologists, whose decisions are based on the need to maintain a healthy alligator population. If hunters poach alligators from areas for which they do not have tags, then the integrity of the entire alligator management system is undermined, thereby threatening Louisiana’s alligator population and alligator industry, which is a significant component of Louisiana’s economy.
The case was prosecuted by Shennie Patel and Susan L. Park of the Environmental Crimes Section of the Environment and Natural Resources Division of the Department of Justice. The case was investigated by the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries and by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Office of Law Enforcement.