In the 1960's, shortly after I was elected to the House of Representative, I was contacted by Tolbert Crowder, one of my good supporters. Tolbert was a resident of Port Acres, lived on the bayou, and was an avid hunter, fisherman and advocate of environmental quality--particularly to our marsh area. Tolbert informed me that alligators in Texas were about to be listed on the endangered species list.
The problem seemed to be that alligators are a very valuable commodity. Almost all parts of an alligator are commercially usable. Their teeth are ivory, their meat is edible, and their hides are valuable for producing various products such as belts, boots, etc. I also learned through Tolbert that alligators are vital for the ecology of the marsh. In times of drought, alligator holes which have been hollowed out in the nesting process are the only source of water for the creatures who reside in marshy areas. The main problem causing the decline of alligators was poachers who would catch alligators and sell them. If they were apprehended or stopped, even in suspicious circumstances, there was no way to prove the alligators were taken in Texas.
Tolbert and many of his friends who were concerned would spend a considerable time catching young alligators and scratching their initials in their hide so they could be identified as Texas gators if and when poachers were caught in possession of same.
At his urging, and the urging of other ecologists, as well as local game wardens, I introduced legislation making it a crime to be in Texas in possession of any part of an alligator. I was quite satisfied I had done a good deed for the ecology as well as alligators.
Fast forward to several years later when I was a member of the Texas Senate. I started receiving cards, calls and letters from many of my constituents, some of whom had lost their pet dogs to alligators coming up from ditches, drainage canals, or other ponds of water into my constituents’ yards. It seems the original legislation had worked to propagate more gators in our area. I soon realized the only natural enemies of alligators are humans. Alligators are the ruling creatures in our marshes.
At the urging of Texas Parks & Wildlife, I again introduced legislation concerning alligators. My new legislation provided that Parks & Wildlife could establish rules and regulations about the taking of 'gators in Texas. The law we passed at that time is basically still the law and has resulted in very reasonable regulations which now allow controlled hunting or taking of alligators and even their commercial use.
As I tell my fellow citizens in trying to urge them to participate in politics, if a state law can have an effect on the life of alligators, imagine what it could do for or to you and your family.