Dinosaur relics find an easy meal
There are big, leathery prehistoric creatures with an intense gaze hanging out at the Davis Pond diversion structure near Ama.
They’re alligators, of course.
A crowd of them have been swimming around the canal in what the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries (LDWF) says equates to a fish buffet for them.
It’s an added creature feature of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers structure, which is actually intended to divert fresh water from the Mississippi River into the Barataria Basin to reduce saltwater intrusion and promote coastal restoration.
As the water flows so does the easy meal for this freshwater lizard, which can weigh up to 790 pounds.
“This collection of alligators is awaiting fish coming through the water control structure – or backed up behind the structure as the current pushes them to it,” said LDWF spokesman Bo Boehringer.
The alligators could also be feeding on the fish and bait scraps thrown from the structure, he said. It is believed Louisiana and Florida have the largest alligator populations, possibly more than million of them in each state.
Another possibility of why alligators have taken to the canal in such large numbers is they’re waiting for cast netting from the structure for shrimp or baitfish.
“They will usually empty the net once they’ve removed whatever they want to keep,” Boehringer said. “So, the gators could very well be feeding on the ‘bycatch’ dumped from the structure.”
Edmond Mouton, program manager for the LDWF alligator program, said he’d confirmed the alligators were congregating at the Davis diversion, but they were not considered a nuisance because the area is rural. Mouton observed the alligators at the diversion shortly after it was completed in 2002 in the upper Baratara Basin.
The diversion is expected to increase commercial and recreational fish and wildlife, as well as enhance vegetation growth for healthier ecosystems.
If the alligators are an indicator of this, it’s working.“Anywhere that food is available, they’ll surely be there,” Mouton said of the alligators.
As urban encroachment takes more habitat from the alligators, they are seeking new food sources, he said. But Mouton added that, while it’s not illegal to feed alligators, it is discouraged because they can become less fearful of humans.
“They’ve been here long before us if you think about it,” Mouton said. “It’s a vestige of the dinosaurs.”