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The untold truth of the Swamp People

While the stars of the History Channel's Swamp People shine a light on the onerous life of the bayou, little has been known about the swamp people themselves. They're unique for any number of reasons, just one of which is their ability to stand nearly alone on the reality television landscape by retaining some semblance of an air of mystery even as they flourish under the spotlight. Until now, that is: we've gone to the liberty of digging into behind-the-scenes Swamp People history and rounding up all the deepest, dankest little-known facts you didn't know you were looking for. Whether you're a hardcore fan of the series or simply curious about the stars of the show, we've got you covered—so get ready to sit down for a spell and read up on some of the most jaw-dropping, gator-wrasslin', gumbo-burning stories you've ever laid your dad-gum eyes on. You can guarantee dat! 

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R.J. and Jay Paul have a road rage problem

R.J. Molinere and Jay Paul Molinere put their hunting skills to the test when they tracked down an animal far more dangerous than a gator. Back in 2013, the father and son team got into an argument with another man while driving on the highway, which is usually a forum for the most civil of debates. TMZ reports that after the argument, the duo followed the man to a nearby convenience store and beat him with a beer bottle (which they somehow failed to turn into an endorsement deal). About a month later, the ragin' Cajuns turned themselves in. But the story doesn't end there.

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They say they're innocent

A couple of days after the bayou boys turned themselves in on the assault charge, they declared their innocence. Also according to TMZ, the Molineres claimed they were the victims of assault, and their alleged victim was just trying to snag some fame for himself. The two vowed to fight the charges in court. As of this writing, no information could be found on the trial's outcome. However, it's safe to say these two gator chasers didn't make it easy on their accuser.

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Trapper Joe has a history of domestic assault charges

It appears that fighting gators isn't enough for Noces Joseph "Trapper Joe" LaFont Jr. In June 2012, LaFont was arrested on a domestic battery charge for not only burning his girlfriend with a lit cigarette, but punching her in the chest as well. The entire assault played out in full view of other guests at the Buena Vista Hotel and Spa in Orange County, Florida, according to TMZ. In addition, witnesses claim they saw him grabbing his girlfriend by the arms and shaking her violently. (Ah, romance.) Another arrest followed in 2013, and LaFont was taken in yet again in 2015, accused of breaking two of his girlfriend's ribs by shoving her in an argument.

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ZZ Loupe fancies himself a professional wrestler

Once Zamariah "ZZ" Loupe tired of wrestling gators, he turned his attentions to wrestling people. That's right, he put his hat in the ring and entered WWE's 2015 Tough Enough competition. Though he didn't win, ZZ (who is beardless, despite his namesake) hasn't given up on his dream. As of May 2016, his Twitter profile, he's still a "future WWE Super Star," and he still practices by wrestling his babies (which is what he calls alligators and not actual babies, just to be clear). At least he's fighting in an appropriate venue, unlike some of the other Swamp People on this list.

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ZZ Loupe's other reality TV show

ZZ Loupe is surprisingly healthy (mentally that is; his cholesterol results have yet to come in) despite his history with reality television. ZZ's first experience was during season one of the ill-conceived Trading Spouses, when he was just 7 years old. Not only was he separated from his mother for a brief period, but he was subjected to the matronly advice of vegan Barbara Gates. Can you imagine a seven-year-old suffering the horror of a vegan? It's enough to send chills down your spine. Since ZZ survived that, it's no wonder he fearlessly wrestles alligators.

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Nicholas Payne hit a cop

Nicholas Payne is a trailblazer, in that he was the first of the Swamp People to have a public record of being arrested for assault. And he didn't just hit anyone. No, Payne attacked a police officer called to his house on a public disturbance report, according to The Times-Picayune. To make matters worse, after striking the officer, Payne attempted to run away, and ended up having his bail set at $10,000. It takes a lot of gator hides to raise that kind of money.

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Payne's checkered past

After his arrest for decking the cop, other tidbits about Payne's past floated to the surface. Unsurprisingly, it wasn't Payne's first run-in with the law. Arresting officers discovered he had an outstanding warrant from another state, for a 2010 battery and resisting arrest incident. And six years before that, he'd pleaded guilty for another simple battery case, for which he served five days of community service.

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Roger A. Rivers Jr. was getting high and illegally selling meat

We've already established that this show is full of characters who have, shall we say, colorful backstories. Roger A. Rivers Jr. can now count himself among them. In May of 2017, Rivers Jr. was arrested and charged with the following counts: "6 counts of selling alligator snapping turtle; 3 counts of selling reptile/amphibians without a collector's license; 3 counts of taking alligators without a license; 2 counts of failure to tag an alligator; 2 counts of selling fish caught recreationally; 2 counts of marijuana possession; 1 count of selling alligator meat illegally; and, 1 count of selling deer meat." Wow. This guy was pretty busy allegedly disregarding all kinds of laws.

But something tells us that Rivers will be back at it in no time — legitimately, that is. According to The Beauregard Daily News, Rivers is a lifelong hunter of all creatures of the swamp; "gators and turtles…deer and hogs, you name it," Rivers said, adding, "It's what I love and I will do it till I die."

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The cast got fired

Before the season seven premiere, the History Channel's powers that be replaced the entire Swamp People cast under mysterious circumstances. According to Starcasm's breakdown of the behind-the-scenes fallout, there were many possible reasons for the dramatic re-casting. Some rumors say the decision was fallout from a dispute between show producers and editors following a strike and a walkout. Other rumors claim this happened because some of the cast wanted more money.

This sparked a Facebook war between the History Channel and the ousted cast, most notably Elizabeth "Gator Queen Liz" Cavalier, who took to the social media site to explain to mystified fans that she was just as confused by the her surprise ouster from the show. "It saddens me to know that our fans are the ones who will suffer from these unexplained actions by the new management of this production company. REALITY," Cavalier wrote, continuing, "We will continue with our regular lives and hope to stay connected with all of you in the future. To all of my fans, with love, GatorqueenLiz." Yikes, them's fighin' words, but the swamp people might want to watch out. After all, the History Channel has vikings on its side!

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Bad blood on the bayou

The ousting didn't just cause acrimony between the Swamp People and the channel. It invoked indignation between some of the bayou broods too. In particular, Junior and Willie Edwards, who vehemently deny asking for raises, by also taking to Facebook (via Starcasm), saying, "To clear up gossip and BS. We never asked for anything." They go on saying a "certain family" is the source of these rumors. There's no word on this family's identity, but one thing's for sure, it appears there's a good, old-fashioned family feud brewing down in the backwaters.

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Troy Landry keeps his lawyers busy

If you've ever thought about trying to sell swag with Swamp People catchphrases on it, think again. Cast member Troy Landry took three companies to court in 2012, accusing them of profiting off merchandise emblazoned with his trademark phrases "Choot Em," "Tree Shaka," "Tree Breaka" and "Mudda Fricka." It might all sound like toddler gibberish to anyone who doesn't watch the show, but there's clearly big money involved.

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Troy Landry lives in a beautiful waterfront home

Troy Landry may speak with the indecipherable cajun drawl of the assistant coach from The Waterboy, but that certainly doesn't mean he's a dummy. In fact, when he's not chootin' gators during the 30-day derby style swamp hunt, he's operating one of the most successful crawfish harvesting businesses around. According to a 2014 interview with Wide Open Spaces, Landry claims to haul in between five and six million pounds of the critters each year. On top of that, Landry, who is arguably the most successful breakout star of the show, makes around 230 public appearances per year "at trade shows, store openings and private parties." Of his fame, Landry says, "the show's been good for us, and we're making a lot of money doing other stuff."

One of the things he's done with the money is build a waterfront dream home for himself and his wife, Bernita. According to TVOM, the beautiful Landry bayou abode is made entirely of cypress that Landry spent a lifetime collecting. It also sits literally feet from a picturesque Louisiana waterway, and boasts an outdoor kitchen, as well as a 30 by 34 foot living room. Who would've guessed selling stickers featuring the phrase "Mudda Fricka" could possibly land oneself in the lap of luxury?

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Chase Landry shot at another boater

Swamp justice apparently moves a lot quicker than traditional courts, which is something the operators of a shrimp boat found out the hard way after Chase Landry shot at them. According to the Terrebonne Parish Sheriff's Office (via Starcasm), Landry was in Bayou Chene in September of 2016 hunting alligators when he fired at the passing boaters, allegedly shooting a hole into a "plastic gas can which was on top of the cabin of the commercial shrimp boat."

Upon his arrest, Landry claimed "he shot because the victim refused to slow down and would have sunk their boat," which admittedly sounds dangerous, but not as dangerous as firing a gun at a gas can that potentially could have exploded and sunk both boats, right? Anyway, it was surprising for Landry to act in such a reckless manner, especially when considering his selfless and downright admirable behavior the month before the shrimp boat shooting…

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Chase Landry helped rescue flood victims

Just one month before his alleged vigilante attempt to stop a speeding shrimp boat, Chase Landry spent five days in and around Baton Rouge rescuing people stranded in high water during the Louisiana Flood of 2016. According to The Times-Picayune, Landry and several friends of his "who are in Baton Rouge law enforcement" used his boat to rescue dozens of people in the Central, North Baton Rouge, Sorrento and St. Amant areas of Louisiana.

"I learned just how united we are. With everything that's been going on, it's really sad to have such petty stuff get in the way of how strong of a nation we are," Landry said of the experience, adding, "Seeing everyone get together and forgetting about what color we are or what this and that one said — that was thrown to the wayside and what was important came out. … If you see your brother or sister or neighbor in a bind, you'll help them."

Unless they're speeding in a shrimp boat. In that case, you know, shoot at the most explosive thing possible.

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Troy's lucky shirts are really just for editing purposes

Troy Landry's signature striped polo shirt became as much of a staple on Swamp People as captioned dialogue and dead alligators. And according to an interview with Louisiana Travel, the reason Landry always dresses for gator slaughter like he's about to play 18 holes is because of luck. "It is my lucky shirt, and I had about seven or eight of 'em and I'm down to about three now. I'm trying to find me some new ones, and the wife can't find none that's exactly the same."

But on Facebook, Landry gives another reason for wearing the same shirt over and over again. "I know everyone is wondering why I wear the same shirt?" Landry writes. "The answer is: we all do! Mine just stands out because of the stripes. It's for editing purposes. We bought ten of the same shirt so they don't have to get waged everyday." Presumably, he meant "washed" when he wrote "waged" there, but the real question is: When will Congress demand Troy Landry testify before a special committee regarding his lie about the shirt being a good luck charm? The American people will not rest until we get to the bottom of Swampgate!

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The show's effect on the alligator meat industry

On top of making anyone with a gun and a boat believe that they, too, can be reality TV stars, Swamp People has actually had a measurable effect on the alligator meat industry. According to his interview with Louisiana Travel, Troy Landry claims, "The demand for alligator meat has almost doubled since the show came out." And since we've already established that Landry's word possibly should not be taken at face value, we looked into this claim further, and found out that it's really true.

According to a Miami New Times investigation of the lucrative black market that deals in alligator meat and skin, shows like Swamp People and Gator Boys have "fueled a surge in prices as alligator meat became a novelty in restaurants throughout the South. From 2013 to 2015, the price doubled to $8.75 a pound on the wholesale market, and trappers couldn't catch enough alligators to meet the demand." The Times also reported that alligator skins sell for "anywhere from $20 to $40 per foot." That is remarkable, not only because a TV show could have such a real world effect on a commodity like that, but also because it means people are genuinely basing their diet and wardrobe choices on something called Swamp People.

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The show has been accused of being cruel to animals

Like almost any show dealing with hunting or fishing, Swamp People has come under fire from animal rights activists. The protest site ForceChange.com petitioned The History Channel to cancel the show, writing, "Swamp People does nothing to educate people about history, it only promotes killing. It is very immoral to air a show that depicts people torturing and killing animals." The petition goes on to say, "Promoting killing as a hobby or as a solution to any problem will never solve them, it will only continue the violence and killing and continue to make this world a horrible place to live in."

On the flip side of that argument — and in spite the fact that the show does sometimes look like an alligator-killing free-for-all — according to AlligatorHunting.net, the sport is highly regulated by private landholders and state agencies. As described by The Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries, their program of "regulated harvest" is actually a conservation effort. According to the department's website:

"Since Louisiana's coastal alligator habitats are primarily privately owned (approximately 81%), our sustained use management program provides direct economic benefit and incentive to private landowners, and alligator hunters/farmers who lease land, to protect the alligator and to protect, maintain, and enhance the alligator's wetland habitats."

The point is, it's a complex issue with a lot more going on than just "killing animals is bad" or "killing animals is fun." And besides, without Swamp People, would the world have ever had the opportunity to wear a hat with the words "Choot 'Em" written on it? Not likely.