First, if you have a gator to skin, congratulations on a successful alligator hunt. If you plan on heading out for a gator, then good luck. Now, like a cat, there is more than one way to skin an alligator. The first method is a belly skin. This save the belly to make alligator products. The scutes or osteoderms are the bony plates embedded in the back skin of an alligator. They give the alligator the bumpy appearance and protect the alligator. This first skinning method leaves the belly skin of the alligator intact and is the preferred method if the hide is to be sold or tanned and made into leather goods.
This method consists of making an incision on each side of the alligator (leaving one to two rows of osteoderms or scutes along the belly side) and on the top of each leg and then removing the hide with the belly skin intact. The underside of the skull also should be skinned with the rest of the belly. The back skin of the alligator with the osteoderms or scutes in it can then be removed and discarded or kept according to your wishes. Because of the difficulty of tanning the osteoderms, the back skin is not considered very useful and most often is discarded.
The second way to skin an alligator produces a more natural looking hide but generally is more costly to tan due to the osteoderms remaining in the hide. This method is similar to skinning a deer or a hog by making an incision up the belly of the alligator and on the underside of each leg. The hide can then be removed in its entirety and saved for tanning or selling. Note: Alligator skulls and skeletal parts not discarded must be permanently marked with the alligator harvest tag number of the hide from which it was taken. This marking may be written on the palate of the mouth after preservation. The skull and skeletal parts may be kept by the selected hunter, transferred or sold. Records must be kept indicating to whom skulls and/or other skeletal parts were transferred.