Handbags made from alligator skins (1960s)

Handbags made from alligator skins (1960s)

Image Number: FW00326

Throughout the 20th Century, alligator products were both popular and fashionable. But such popularity led to the alligators drastic decrease in numbers.

A worker tanning alligator skin at Wild Animal Farm: Saint Petersburg, Florida (1951)

Image Number: C015672

Alligator dead from pollution: Palm Beach, Florida (1969)

Image Number: DL0120

In addition to hunting, pollution and development pushed the alligator to the brink of extinction as their natural habitat was threatened. Finally in 1967, the Federal government listed the American Alligator as an endangered species.

Confiscated car filled with illegally hunted alligator skins (1969)

Image Number: FW00313

With federal protection in place, Florida law enforcement officers began actively prosecuting poachers and others who profited from the hunting of alligators.

Alligator and scientific equipment in the cab of a car (19--)

Image Number: FW00329

In order to track the progress and health of alligators, as well as to better understand them, many agencies began to actively research and monitor alligators.

Game and fish officers with alligators (1966)

Image Number: FW00317

Game and fish officers with alligator skins (1966)

Image Number: FW00318

Florida Game and Freshwater Fish officers tag an alligator (1960s)

Image Number: FW00153

F.K. Jones trapping and tagging alligators (1964)

Image Number: FW00148

Earl Frye discusses limited alligator hunting: Tallahassee, Florida (1976)

Image Number: MF1002

By the mid 1970s, the protection of alligators had already proved successful. In 1976, Executive Director of the Florida Game and Fresh Water Fish Commission Earl Frye recommended allowing limited harvesting of alligators.

Florida Game and Freshwater Fish officers load alligator carcass: Wakulla Springs, Florida (1987)

Image Number: PR10725

By the late 1980s, alligators has bounced back. Meanwhile, their habitat continued to decline, which led to increasing encounters between humans and alligators. These encounters sometime proved deadly, such as at Wakulla Springs when a diver was fatally attacked by the alligator pictured here.

Large group of alligators: St. Augustine, Florida

Image Number: PR19887

In 1987, the alligator was pronounced fully recovered by both state and federal authorities. The success of the alligator protection program stands as one of the greatest success stories of proactive nature management. The alligator also lives on in the popular imagination.