The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service stopped the export of 3,800 Louisiana alligator skins Friday because the agency had forgotten to complete a report on whether the skins' late owners could be killed.

The wildlife service is required to determine the impact of proposals to take animals that are on the government's threatened species list. Such studies ordinarily are completed before the animals are killed, said Dr. Richard Jachowski, chief of the office of scientific authority. But this year, Jachowski's staff missed the deadline for the alligator hunt, partly because it was moving into new offices.

When the service realized the required study had not been completed, it ordered that the export of the skins be stopped. The scientific office is expected to approve last month's hunt in a notice scheduled to be published in Tuesday's Federal Register.

"When they called me, I thought it was a joke, probably one of my competitors kidding me," said Egon Klein, owner of Wholesale Fish and Fur Inc., one of three Baton Rouge firms whose shipments were held up. "But they were serious. They told me to unload the skins." Klein said he unloaded 7,000 pounds of alligator skins that were bound for garment manufacturers in Japan, Italy and France.

Klein estimated the snafu will cost him $1,500. State officials had approved the killing of 16,500 alligators in September. Officials said 12,700 alligator skins had been shipped before the federal agency realized that its paperwork was incomplete.