One of the things that separates Swamp People from the myriad other reality shows that follow people doing unorthodox/dangerous jobs is the nature of alligator hunting. In Louisiana, where the show was originally based, alligator hunting season only lasts 30 days. Although that tradition goes back several centuries, it seems tailor-made for a reality show competition as all of the gator hunters in the area race to get as much successful hunting done within the same short timeframe.
Beyond the intense competition and inherent danger of alligator hunting, Swamp People has remained on the air for eight seasons now because of the colorful cast of characters that live in the swamps of Louisiana and work in this unusual industry. And it’s not just the quality of the cast, but the quantity: in addition to the 20 people that are “current” cast members of the show, nearly 40 more people can be counted among the primary and recurring past members of the History Channel series.
Despite the 60 or so people who have been a part of Swamp People at one point or another, there is a clearly-defined core group of people that have risen to the top as the most beloved– and a few that can be counted among the most blatantly notorious– both on and off the screen.
Here are 15 Dark Secrets About Swamp People You Had No Idea About.
15. The original cast was replaced under mysterious circumstances
The networks that air reality shows often do a mass exodus of cast members at some point in order to shake things up. The reasons for doing so aren’t always made clear– and sometimes, the ousted cast members are just as confused as the fans are as to why they were asked to leave.
Following the sixth season, a dozen cast members who had been on the show for years– some from the very beginning– were fired from the show and replaced with some new blood for season seven and on. Not only did History Channel not formally announce the reason for the group firing, but the exiting cast members also claim that they weren’t given a reason beyond simply being informed that they wouldn’t be returning to the show.
While some of these departing cast members stayed diplomatic about the whole thing, simply thanking the fans for their support, a few of the more outspoken gator hunters weren’t willing to go away quietly. Something which, apparently, History Channel wasn’t too keen on…
14. History Channel tried to silence the fired cast members
Liz Cavalier, one of the most vocal of the fired cast members, wasn’t shy about expressing her displeasure with the way things were handled. She says that none of them were given any real reason for being let go, a sentiment that most of her fellow fired hunters echoed. Moreover, she was driven to speak out when rumors began to spread that money was at the heart of the issue, and that she and the others had asked for too much money to extend their contracts– something that all of the people who were willing to go on record about the issue vehemently denied.
But Liz wasn’t done after her initial round of speaking out. She also claimed that both History Channel and Swamp People production company Original Media had reached out to her and told her that she shouldn’t be talking about the firings. There didn’t seem to be official non-disclosure agreements existing or being broken; simply a request that the former cast members not air their dirty laundry about their exit from the show. It begs the question of what History Channel and Original Media didn’t want them saying.
13. Roger Rivers Jr. was arrested for illegally selling meat
As you’ll discover once you make your way through this list, the cast of Swamp People consists of several people with rap sheets longer than an alligator’s tail for some pretty despicable offenses. By comparison, the arrest record for season five cast member Roger Rivers Jr. is far tamer, even though the charges are just as numerous.
In May 2017, Rivers was arrested and booked for a whopping 20 charges– two related to drugs, and the other 18 being wildlife violations. The drug charges were simply two counts of marijuana possession, but as far as the wildlife violations, Rivers was charged with selling a variety of animal meats without going through the proper legal processes to do so. The illegally-obtained and/or sold meat came not only from alligators but also deer, fish, snapping turtles, and other types of reptiles and amphibians. He was released on a $10,000 bond.
12. ZZ Loupe was on Trading Spouses as a child
Season four’s Zamariah “ZZ” Loupe would eventually become more famous for his post-Swamp People career, entering the world of pro-wrestling and joining the ranks of the WWE. However, even though he was one of the more popular characters on the sixth season of the WWE series Tough Enough, his time with the company was as short-lived as his Swamp People career, and he was released from his wrestling contract after only a year.
However, it turns out that Swamp People was actually ZZ’s second brush with fame– and reality TV fame, no less. When he was only seven years old, ZZ was on a first-season episode of Trading Spouses.
His episode featured a Cajun mom (ZZ’s) switching places with a vegan mom. ZZ was extremely defiant of his vegan mother, and in one of the funniest moments, he savored a plate full of oysters right in front of her.
11. It drew the wrath of Dominic Monaghan
Like any show that features the hunting of animals, Swamp People has drawn the ire of various animal rights groups and has been the subject of petitions to get the show canceled. Only in this case, a famous name joined the backlash against the alligator-hunting series.
Best known for his roles in Lord of the Rings and Lost, British actor Dominic Monaghan has spent the last five years hosting a wildlife show for BBC America called Wild Things with Dominic Monaghan. A couple years into Swamp People‘s run, Monaghan took to Twitter to rail against the show, calling it “shock TV” and accusing it of glorifying the killing of animals and saying it contributes to the “demonization of crocodilians.”
Monaghan went on to say that if famed Crocodile Hunter star Steve Irwin— whom he called his hero– was still alive, such shows wouldn’t be on TV, and vowed that he was going to “stop them.”
10. Chase Landry was arrested for shooting someone’s boat
Troy Landry’s son Chase is among the few Swamp People stars whose reputation away from the show is a positive one, most notably after doing a lot for flood victims of the devastating barrage of hurricanes that battered the southern United States in 2017. Still, Chase hasn’t been able to completely stay on the right side of the law.
In September 2016, Chase was arrested for shooting at another boat, hitting the boat’s gas tank and creating an extremely dangerous situation. If that seems uncharacteristic for a guy who otherwise has displayed a good heart and generous demeanor, it might be– Chase told police that the boat he fired upon was going faster than the legal limit, and was on a collision course with his own craft.
While Chase’s warning shot might seem severe, keep in mind that it can be a potentially life-threatening situation to capsize in alligator-infested waters.
9. Jay Paul and RJ’s road rage incident
In August 2013, Jay Paul and RJ were involved in an altercation stemming from a road rage incident that ended with them allegedly assaulting a man with a beer bottle after following him to a convenience store. They turned themselves in a month later, though they had a very different version of events to tell police of how things went down.
After they were booked, the Molineres told police that they were the actual victims in the attack, claiming they never committed any violence against the man and that he was simply trying to score his 15 minutes of fame by accusing celebrities of assaulting him. There is no public record of anything coming from the pair’s counter-claim, meaning it was either settled in a very private manner or law enforcement didn’t buy their excuse.
As it stands, they are the only people involved in this situation that seem to have actually been charged with anything.
8. Troy is lawsuit-happy over his catchphrases
One sure sign of a property’s popular is when it spawns catchphrases– and to that end, Swamp People has proven itself a popular brand. Phrases like “Choot ‘Em,” “Mudda Fricka,” and “Tree Shaka/Breaka” have become synonymous with the show and been plastered across various types of merchandise. Just be careful trying to sell something with one of those phrases on it – unless you’ve gotten Troy Landry’s permission.
Taking full credit for his catchphrases and asserting his ownership over their associated intellectual property, Landry has thus far taken three different companies to court over their use on merchandise of his catchphrases without his permission. He already markets items under his own company, Troy Landry Productions, which he says should be the sole creator and manufacturer of any items that contain his trademarked phrases.
For those interested in getting into the alligator merchandise business, make sure you also avoid the phrase “Got Gator?” as Troy Landry Productions owns that one as well.
7. Nick Payne attacked a cop
Nick Payne, a member of the Swamp People cast during its second season, made headlines in 2011 when he was arrested for assaulting a police officer who was called in for a domestic disturbance call– followed by fleeing the scene after striking the officer.
Once that altercation came to light, so did Payne’s history of violent offenses. It was then revealed that he already had an outstanding warrant from another state from a prior assault incident. That incident came six years after pleading guilty to yet another battery case.
It begs the question of whether reality TV show producers bother to do any background checks on their future stars, hiring someone who not only had a criminal past but an active arrest warrant.
6. Jay Paul and RJ Molinere’s spiritualism is exagerrated for TV
Since joining the show in the second season and surviving the season six exodus, father/son duo Jay Paul and RJ Molinere remain among the most talked-about cast members of Swamp People. The polarizing pair– some love them, others love to hate them– became associated with their heritage as descendants of the Houma tribe who are native to Louisiana, being marketed as the “REAL swamp people” of Louisiana.
While the Molineres’ heritage is not in question, their practice of it might be– at least in terms of how it’s portrayed on television. Several sources have claimed that, although Jay Paul and RJ are proud of their Native American heritage and consider it a part of their identity, the various rituals and forms of spiritualism they display on the show aren’t entirely authentic and that they were urged to play up their roots by the show’s producers.
It’s just another example of reality stars who may not be outright playing “characters,” but are likely playing more exaggerated versions of themselves than they do in their off-screen lives.
5. The mystery of Troy Landry’s trademark polo
Reality TV stars will often settle into some sort of visual trademark that comes to be associated with them, and in the case of Swamp People star Troy Landry, that’s his iconic striped polo. But what’s the story behind that polo? Turns out that the truth isn’t quite so clear.
For years, Troy said that the polo was lucky, and that he bought multiples of it to ensure that he would have plenty of lucky shirts as older ones wear out or become otherwise unwearable. However, that explanation became somewhat nebulous as Troy recently said on Facebook that the only reason he has multiple polos is for editing purposes, and that all of the Swamp People cast members have multiples of several of their shirts in order for producers to edit the shows as they see fit.
It might seem like an arbitrary difference in explanations, but it’s a big one for people who actually believed Troy’s now-questionable story that there was a special origin for his famous polo.
4. The show’s success has driven up alligator prices
When it comes to what the market dictates in terms of the value of meat, much of the pricing is determined by how “trendy” a certain type of meat is at any given time. Celebrity chef Anthony Bourdain has said that when he was first starting out as a chef in the 70s, squid was considered a “trash fish,” a low-cost seafood most commonly enjoyed by low-income eaters. That is, until someone decided that squid was trendy, and it suddenly became much more prized– and therefore, more expensive.
While alligator may have never been considered a low-income food, it definitely was easier and cheaper to come by before there was a popular reality show around to make it seem more hip. Since Swamp People‘s rise to prominence, both alligator meat and alligator-sourced products have become much more popular, which has led to a rise in demand and price for food, clothing, and other items that come from alligators. Good for the industry, but bad for existing alligator fans who are suddenly dealing with artificially-inflated prices.
3. Most gators aren’t as huge as the ones in the show
Viewers of Swamp People might be fooled into thinking that the swamps of Louisiana and Texas are chock full of massive, 500-pound alligators, as those seem to be the only kind encountered on the show. Well, chalk that up to good ol’ selective editing.
While the giant alligators shown on Swamp People aren’t extraordinarily rare, they certainly aren’t the norm. It’s clear that the hunters snag plenty of less-impressive beasts during their 30-day hunts, but those just aren’t the ones they put on TV. Instead, producers are careful to go over the footage and select the biggest of the bunch in order to decide which hunts and which gators will be featured on camera.
In fact, part of that deceit is what animal rights activists object to with shows like this, saying that it misrepresents the overall threat of alligators and that there isn’t as much population control of human-threatening gators needed as the show might suggest.
2. It misrepresents many aspects of alligator hunting
Nobody is denying that there is a very real danger to alligator hunting, or that it’s a job that involves people literally putting their lives at risk. Alas, even the most death-defying of jobs is going to require a fair amount of creative exaggeration on the part of producers in order to make for the most compelling TV show possible.
One fairly obvious way that Swamp People fudges things is in the actual hunting of the gators themselves. Often, the show sees a hunter take a shot at a gator with their gun, followed by the gator getting the bullet, all with the best possible angle on the action. As skilled as camera operators can be, there’s just no way to capture all that naturally. While the shot of the alligator eating lead is probably authentic, the cast members are likely filmed taking shots at nothing in order to get those cool action movie moments of them firing their guns.
Sources familiar with the show have also claimed that much of the footage of the hunters wrestling with the gators are actually shots of them wrangling already-dead creatures in order to be able to safely capture that harrowing moment on camera.
1. “Trapper Joe” Lafont has a long history of domestic assault
As we’ve shown, several members of the Swamp People family have had brushes with the law. But there’s no denying which cast member has the darkest side of the bunch: Joe Lafont, also known as “Trapper Joe.”
Starting with the oldest known offense, in 2012 Joe was arrested on a domestic battery charge when he allegedly punched his girlfriend in the chest and burned her. As if that weren’t bad enough, the incident took place in a public hotel lobby, proving how brazen Joe is in his violent behavior.
Subsequent battery arrests followed in 2013 and 2015, with the latter resulting in Joe allegedly pushing his girlfriend so hard that she ended up with two broken ribs. It’s worth noting that Joe’s most recent appearance on the show was during its sixth season in 2015, which meant he was allowed to return to the show even after the very public cigarette burn/punch to the chest incident and subsequent 2013 arrest.
Do you have any Swamp People trivia to share? Leave it in the comments!