Louisiana Hunting Outfitter Sentenced to Prison for First Felony Conviction for Illegally Hunting Protected Alligators
WASHINGTON – Gregory K. Dupont, 38, of Plaquemine, La., was sentenced in U.S. District Court in Baton Rouge, La., to serve six months in prison, to be followed by four months in a half-way house and two years of supervised release. Dupont was also ordered to pay a $3,000 fine. Dupont’s sentencing, handed down by U.S. District Judge Brian Jackson late Thursday, was the first ever felony conviction and prison sentence resulting from the illegal hunting of American alligators (Alligator mississippiensis), in violation of the Lacey Act, the Endangered Species Act, and Louisiana law.
Dupont has owned and operated Louisiana Hunters Inc., a hunting outfitting company, since 2001. His clients hired him to take them on alligator hunts in Louisiana, and they included out-of-state residents who were required to hunt with a licensed resident alligator hunter. Dupont took some of the out-of-state clients to hunt alligators on property where he was not authorized to hunt. On Feb.10, 2012, Dupont pleaded guilty to selling American alligators by providing outfitting and guiding services, knowing the alligators to have been taken illegally, on a hunt in September 2006.
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. The conservation effect of 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 size of the American alligator population in the United States, and American alligators were down-listed to threatened status in 1987. The success of the American alligator conservation program 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.
According to court documents, Dupont, in violation of law, guided his clients to places in Louisiana, regardless of whether he had tags for the areas, where he hoped his clients would kill trophy-sized alligators so that they would pay him a trophy fee in addition to the guiding fees.
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, with assistance from the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Middle District of Louisiana. The case was investigated by the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries Law Enforcement Division and by the U. S. Fish and Wildlife Service Office of Law Enforcement.