Liz Cavalier was thrust into the limelight after she was featured in the second season of History Channel’s “Swamp People” in 2011. She was one of the few lady alligator hunters in South Louisiana, and was known as a good shot. As her skills and experience shone through, she was given the title ‘Gator Queen, and had easily become one of the favorite hunters on the show. However, her appearance on the reality series only lasted until the sixth season in 2015. People who had been following Liz on the show were curious about her absence, and clamored for her return.
Who is Liz Cavalier?
Liz Cavalier was born Elizabeth Dupre on 21 January 1970, in Pierre Part, which is north of Morgan City in Louisiana, USA. Her father, CJ Dupre, taught her how to live off the land and hunt ‘gators, while her mother, Ella Dupre, prepared the meat after the alligator was skinned and cleaned.
— Swamp People (@SwampPeople) January 23, 2014
The family would stay in the marsh south of Houma all year long, as her dad would take her with him on the boat even when she was still a baby, and her mom would put her milk bottles in the icebox, and just warm it under the sun for her to drink.
Growing up, she accompanied her dad on his hunts so she could watch and learn from him, although he didn’t let her near any ‘gator line until she was 12. Little did he know that she had a seven-foot long alligator pet she called Charlie-Pie back at their camp. She claimed that whenever she would clap her hands and call out, ‘Come, Charlie-Pie,’ he would come and she would feed him crackers and bread right out of her hands. When her father found out about this, he put a line out and hunted it. She cried and was mad about it for a while, despite knowing that an alligator was dangerous and not a pet she could play with, although as a child, the concept of danger was something she had not yet fully understood.
Both of her parents passed away six months apart in 2004, but they’d taught her well to survive and thrive.
Jessica was her child from her first marriage, and the only thing that was known about her first husband was that his last name was Cavalier. She remarried in 2010 to a ‘gator hunter named Justin Choate, who had two sons, Daimon and Destin, from a previous marriage; the family lived on Pecan Island, Louisiana. Liz said that everything they needed was around them, calling the land and water their grocery store. They could actually live off the land, as there was an abundance of wild hogs, rabbits, squirrels and deer.
Just like when Liz was growing up, her kids were taught at an early age how to hunt and fish. The couple gave the boys their own boat with Destin, the younger of the two, as the captain. They ran their own crab cages as they were taught how to go crabbing by themselves, and looked forward to doing it as this was their contribution to the family.
Liz knew that anything could happen while they were out in the water, but she was confident that the boys knew what they were doing, and before heading out, their father would give them safety reminders.
History Channel’s reality television series “Swamp People,” featured those who made a living out of hunting alligators in the Atchafalaya River Basin, the largest wetland and swamp in the US. The hunting season officially opens at the west zone every first Wednesday in September, and would last for 60 days according to the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries regulations. Only licensed hunters could harvest ‘gators in Louisiana, whether it was done in private or public lands or lakes. Prior to the start of the season, they would apply for alligator tags that they had to attach to their kills six inches from the end of their tails. They could only hunt as many as the tags they were issued with, and only from sunup to sundown.
It’s a race against time as they had to tag out before the season closed, and important to use all the tags so they would be given more the next hunting season. Lost ones weren’t replaced, and unused ones were returned. It was said that during a casting call for the show, the producers were looking for experienced hunters with at least 50 tags, and ‘who live and breathe the lifestyle.’
The most common method of harvesting was the fishing method, using baited hooks and lines to catch the ;gators. The hunters needed to get up close and personal with the reptiles once they were caught, so that they could shoot them in a precise spot behind the skull. A ‘gator would fight hard to escape, thrashing wildly in the water, which made it all the more dangerous as it could still take a bite out of anything near with its powerful jaws, while the hunter tried to keep its head above water so the shooter could have a clear shot.
A hunter would only haul one in by its snout and a front leg to get the body on the motorboat once it was dead. There was no size restriction, as once a gator was caught, it had to be dispatched.
The income from culling alligators might not be enough, so the hunters had other occupations such as harvesting crawfish, crabs, shrimps and fish during the much longer off-season. The show would sometimes feature other aspects of a hunter’s life, aside from hunting ‘gators.
Season one of the series started airing in August 2010, and the show featured various teams of two or three hunters included the hunter who would catch or “reel in” the ‘gator, and the shooter who would sometimes serve as the captain of the boat as well.
Liz Cavalier on “Swamp People”
Troy Landry, known as the “King of the Swamp,” was short of a shooter in season two, and Liz was asked to join him so he could fill his 320 tags.
It was said that the History Channel representatives were looking for a lady alligator hunter, and Liz was highly recommended by the people in the community of Pierre Part, as she had years of experience in the field; her hunting ground every ‘gator season was 2,300 acres near Houma. The reps were quite impressed with her skills as they filmed her hunting and fishing, and the producers liked what they saw and offered her the chance to be featured on the show. She was hesitant to accept, as she said, ‘I’m a simple person,’ admitting that she was more nervous doing interviews than hunting ‘gators. She was calm most of the time, but she did have some fears of falling overboard with alligators in the water. However, it didn’t stop her from doing what she was good at, as she would push herself even if scared. Liz helped Landry meet his daily quota, so he was on track in filling his tags.
Liz and Destin resort to old tricks, Frenchy & Gee put their partnership to the test, Bruce uses secret knowledge to try to tag out, and Dorien has a big surprise for Mr. Daniel 😲 Catch it all TONIGHT at 9/8c only on #SwampPeople pic.twitter.com/kJwrG6G2Hd
— Swamp People (@SwampPeople) May 20, 2021
She was injured during a capture during the “Dark Waters” episode, although she recovered soon enough to continue helping him in the “Rising Sons” episode. As thrilling as hunting ‘gators might seem to some, it was also difficult as the hunters run into all sorts of problems such as a storm brewing, engine trouble, and the gators not biting.
In season three, she had a team of her own on Pecan Island, as she hoped to keep his late father’s legacy of alligator-hunting alive. She was accompanied by another ‘gator hunter named Kristi Broussard, a Navy veteran who owned a ranch. When her assistant wasn’t available, Liz asked her daughter to help out, starting in season four. During season five, when the mother-daughter team still had over 300 tags to fill (425 tags were allotted to them) and the hunting season was already halfway through, Liz recruited the help of her husband and the use of his boat as well as another hunter, Glenn Guist.
Her appearance in “Swamp People” changed her life only in a way that she became easily recognized by people outside her community. Although the show was very popular, it wasn’t without its critics, people who thought they were monsters who killed ‘gators for fun. It was said that the animal rights group petitioned to have it canceled, and British actor Dominic Monaghan took to social media and accused the show of glorifying the killing of animals, and contributed to the ‘demonization of crocodilians.’
Liz said that the hunting season was essential in controlling the population of the ‘gators., otherwise they would be everywhere and ‘would run amok, wandering into people’s yards and eating pets or people.’ She said, ‘When we alligator hunt, I respect the territory we’re in.
It’s an animal you’re hunting, but you’ve got to respect them,’ and added that they only get what was needed. The ‘gators they caught weren’t wasted, as virtually all of the reptile was used.
What happened to Liz Cavalier?
Her departure from the show
When the production company Original Media, responsible for “Swamp People”, came under new management, they made drastic changes that included the firing of several cast members. It didn’t come as a surprise to some because it was a given that in creating new storylines or dynamics in a reality TV show, they needed to introduce new cast members. However, the show had a loyal following, and some weren’t happy about the changes they made, including firing those who had been featured since the start, and those who had become favorites, such as the ‘Gator Queen – this happened after they filmed the sixth season.
Most of the cast members who were let go went back quietly to working in the swamps as they always did, series or no series.
— Jessica Cavalier (@GatorPrincessJC) May 16, 2013
Liz, on the other hand, took to Facebook and shared how she, her family, and some of the original hunters were fired for reasons that the company chose not to disclose, and they would no longer be seen in the series starting season seven. It was clear she was unhappy about this development in the way it was handled, and what it meant to their fans, although she was non-confrontational about it. She added, ‘We will continue with our regular lives, and hope to stay connected with all of you in the future.’
The production company didn’t like her posting about the firing of people on social media, and requested her to delete them. There didn’t seem to be any non-disclosure agreement that she had broken, only that they probably didn’t want this negative publicity. Apparently, after her post, they received ‘nasty ‘phone calls and complaints’ from viewers. Liz didn’t react well to the company’s attempt to silence her, and told her fans all about it.
She had no intention of deleting her posts, saying, ‘I wear my heart on my sleeve, and I will die that way. My family and my heritage stay alive always until I die.’ She added, ‘I support Louisiana 100 percent. Rather keep my pride than sell my soul to the devil!’
It was said she posted about all this on social media, because of the rumors that started spreading about her and the other hunters asking for more money to continue to appear in the show, which they denied. Others speculated that it was because they attended trade shows to sign autographs and sold merchandise, and the producers didn’t know about it, or didn’t receive a cut on the sale. However, the real reason remained a mystery.
Life after “Swamp People”
She continued to harvest gators during hunting season, and in 2015, Liz released “The Gator Queen Liz Cookbook,” dedicated to her late father and mother, which was a 192-page hardcover with 100 recipes for authentic Cajun food, and 75 colored photos.
She was touched by how the photos came out, and said, ‘That’s us. They’re our actual lives we live. I just love it.’ Liz shared recipes for duck, venison, crawfish, and nutria, as well as tips on how to cook turtle, squirrel, rabbit as well as ‘gator meat; she also included her Mama Ella’s cracker pudding recipe. She said, ‘My mother was my heart and soul of cooking. I love to cook and my mom was an excellent cook who taught me a lot.’ In fact, Liz once worked as a cook at Too’s Seafood and Steakhouse in Pierre Part.
Her family had an official website that sold merchandise, and offered bookings for Team Liz.
Back on the reality TV series
In season 12, many were surprised to see Liz back on the show. It seemed that the bayou was overrun by ‘gators, and she would help cull the population. She was accompanied by her stepson, Destin, whom she was proud to say was continuing the family tradition of gator hunting.