After a stubbornly cold winter, spring has arrived in the swamps of South Louisiana. The Atchafalaya Basin is slowly waking up and coming back to life, and that includes everyone’s favorite swamp creature, the American Alligator. Captains Tucker and Nick have spotted their big brown friends on recent tours, and we expect to start hearing the eerie sounds of mating calls and seeing more gators on tours.
Fun Facts About Gators
The American Alligator (alligator mississippiensis) is the largest reptile found in North America. They have evolved over millennia to become advanced and intelligent hunters, and have even been observed to lure birds using sticks and leaves on their heads to trick them into nesting there. According to Wikipedia, alligators live in all of the Southeastern U.S. states, but Florida and Louisiana have the most, with gator populations over a million in each state.
Unlike mammals, who tend to stop growing at the end of puberty, alligators continue to grow over their entire life span. They also replace their own teeth when they fall out. Gators can go through 2000 teeth in their lifetimes. The largest gator ever recorded was found in Alabama in 2014, and measured 15 feet and 9 inches.
One of the most interesting things about alligators is that temperature is a factor in determining what sex the gator will be. If eggs are incubated at temperatures over 93 degrees, the gators will all be male. If they are incubated at 86 degrees, they will be females. Weather patterns that are a mix of these temperatures will create a brood of mixed sexes.
Female gators are notoriously protective mamas. According to Wired magazine, “Female alligators build nests made of vegetation, sticks, leaves, and mud near a body of water. As the vegetation decays, it heats up and keeps the eggs warm. She stays near the nest throughout the 65-day incubation period, protecting it from intruders. When the eggs are ready to hatch, the young alligators make high-pitched noises from inside their eggs. This causes their mother to start digging them out of the nest and carrying her babies down to the water in her jaws. She may protect her young for up to a year.” (Source) Captain Tucker has stories about female alligators becoming aggressive when protecting their young.
The Past and Future of Alligators
Alligators were once on the endangered species list (National Geographic). Years of overfishing and collecting hides created an unsustainable drop in populations, forcing them onto the endangered list in 1967. In a span of only twenty years, better practices brought the gator back up to a healthy population, even resulting in a one to two month hunting season each year to keep populations from becoming overcrowded and starving each other to death.
While we never can truly predict Mother Nature, March is typically the time of year where you will begin seeing alligators on most of our 1.5 hour swamp tours. Our airboats can travel deep into the heart of the cypress woodlands and get you close to the action. Book a tour today by calling 337.228.7880.