Wild alligators are shy and reclusive creatures that don’t typically congregate except during the breeding season—thus, captivity may lead to stress and brown-spot disease. Alligators are sensitive to light and sounds, so Benny Cenac ensures his Houma ranch holds alligators in darker conditions, minimizes external noise, and fosters individual relationships between the gators and the caretakers to reduce the possibility for stress under captivity. Adult gators achieve maximum growth in constant warmth and a substantial amount of space. Like most Houma residents, the large reptiles spend their days in an environment that hovers between 86 to 88 degrees! Until the Civil War, alligators were typically used for food by Native Americans and some other Southeastern United States dwellers. Later, traders and hunters started peddling gator hides to be made into leather for shoes, belts, saddlebags, and other fashionable items. The first commercial alligator farm was established in Florida in the 1890s following developments in new commercial tanning processes resulting in softer, more pliable, and more durable skins. A steady increase in demand for alligator hides eventually prompted American legislators to protect the American alligator under a 1967 law that preceded the Endangered Species Act of 1973. Hunting and habitat destruction—ditching and draining land for new developments and water management— account for the estimated 10 million alligators killed between 1870 to the mid-1960s. The American alligator has since made a remarkable recovery and was taken off the endangered species list in 1987, thanks to the joint efforts by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, state wildlife agencies enacting their own rules and protocols, and farms and alligator refuges across the Gulf Coast. The Fish and Wildlife Service continues to protect the alligator under the Endangered Species Act classification as “threatened due to similarity of appearance.” The Service oversees the alligator harvest and sales of the animals, their skins, and products made from them, as part of efforts to prevent the illegal take and trafficking of endangered “look-alike” reptiles. American alligator populations have recovered so well that now hunting and egg collecting are permitted.