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PHOTOGRAPHY

Inside the Dangerous (and Lucrative) Business of Alligator Farming: A Photo Gallery

Alligator hunting and farming is big business in Florida, Georgia, and Louisiana. Photographer Adam Krause investigated and documented the lucrative trade.

Photographer Adam Krause's first encounter with illegal alligator hunting happened by chance. While attending college in Central Florida, he says, his Spanish 101 conversation partner would come in Monday mornings with four-by-six-inch photos of his exploits in the swamps. "One of his biggest hobbies--that he kept photographic evidence of--was to troll the lakes and rivers of Florida in a boat with his buddies, find alligators, and then shoot them with shotguns at very close distances," Krause says.

Not all alligator hunting is against the law: The legal way to hunt an alligator is to hook it via the "fishing method" during hunting season, which is about one month out of the year. You can sneak up on it with a harpoon, and once you harpoon it, a bow-and-arrow or a bang-stick may be used to kill the alligator. The rules of alligator hunting are: no shotguns, you can only hunt during the daytime, and a permit is required. Hunting isn't the only way to get a dead alligator. Alligator farming is legal in Louisiana, Georgia, and Florida.

Alligator hunting and farming is big business in the southeastern United States. Alligator skin, which is sold for handbags, coats, shoes, and other mostly-fashion-industry items, is a $50 million industry in Louisiana alone. This doesn't account for the other portions of the animals, some of which are sold for meat. Alligators' claws are often taxidermied and used as back scratchers; their bones can be pulverized and used for fertilizer. In Louisiana, more than 850,000 alligators have been harvested and sold to date. Overall, the state economic impact from both consumptive and non-consumptive alligator use is estimated at $60 to $70 million annually.

Each of the photographs in this series, Alligator Hunting and Commerce, was taken by Krause over a two-week period in the summer of 2007. "Returning to the South (born and raised) to photograph this project put me in situations that challenged my morals and ethics," Krause says. "Along the way, I met amazing characters that would fit perfectly into any Southern Gothic novel."

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