Crawfish Season 2021

Perhaps considered an unofficial mascot of New Orleans, crawfish hold a special place in the heart of every Louisiana resident. They are known by several different names, including craydids, crawdaddies, mudbugs, or yabbies, but they will always be known as crawfish in Louisiana. Crawfish are a major component in many Louisiana dishes, including etouffee and pie. In fact, these little crustaceans are so loved that they even gained themselves their own season

What are Crawfish?

Crawfish, originally referred to as crayfish, are small crustaceans that are found in fresh water settings all over the world. Most crawfish cannot live in polluted water, but there are some exceptions. They bare a resemblance to the much larger lobster, to which they are related to. They are often compared to lobsters and shrimp in terms of taste. While they are popular all over the world, including Sweden and Spain, they are predominantly found in Louisiana. In fact, approximately 95% of all the crawfish that is consumed in the United States alone is harvested from Louisiana. Louisiana’s abundance of swamps, rivers, and lakes makes the state the perfect habitat for these well-loved crustaceans.

Crawfish are characterized by a joined head and thorax and come in a variety in color, including sandy yellow, green, red, or dark brown. Their head includes a sharp snout and their eyes are found on movable stalks. They have to ability to breathe through feather-like gills. While their exoskeleton is thin, it is considerably tough. They possess power pinchers called chelae, located at the front of their body. They typically grow to be about 3 inches long, but the largest can grow to 15 inches.

While commonly used for food, crawfish can be used for a variety of things. Crawfish are often used as bait, whether live or only tail meat, in order to attract a variety of ray-finned fishes. It is important, however, that these crustaceans can only be used in the same environment that they are caught. Surprisingly, crawfish can also be kept as pets. They can be kept in freshwater aquariums and can live off of a variety of food, including regular and tropical fish food, algae wafers, and small fish.

Crawfish Season

While crawfish season is a well-known to Louisiana residents, there is no official set season. It roughly begins in March and ends in June. These months produce an increase of the crawfish population, allowing them to be eaten in large amounts. Typically, crawfish boils usually involve spicy boiled crawfish, corn, and andouille sausage. They can be eaten by the pounds and often poured directly onto tables lined with newspapers for large gatherings to enjoy.

 

This season brings along several events and festivals to celebrate Louisiana’s national crustacean. These giant crawfish boils gather a large number of visitors, craving the taste that only Louisiana knowns how to offer. Beginning in late April, the Nola Crawfish Festival hosts crawfish eating contests, live music, and much more. It is located at Central City BBQ and lasts until May.

 

Located two hours away from New Orleans, the Breaux Bridge Crawfish Festival hosts live music among other things. This festival is only for one weekend in May, so make sure you know the exact date in advance. Crawfish Mambo is hosted by the University of New Orleans and features an all-you-can-eat crawfish boil as well as live music. This festival usually takes place in May.

See it For Yourself

Get a first-hand look of where crawfish live with Cajun Encounters. Guests can travel down the Honey Island Swamp, experiencing the beauty of one of the most untarnished ecosystems in America first-hand, and, if that is not enough, there are plenty of educational opportunities to learn about the plants and animals that inhabit it.

Cajun Encounters is always open and ready for those who wish to experience a little adventure outside of daily norms. Guests are guaranteed the best educational experience possible with trained experts as their guides. Cajun Encounters is working hard to ensure not only the satisfaction but also the safety of its visitors by implementing proper COVID-19 protocol. 

Book your tour today at https://www.cajunencounters.com or calling 504.834.1770 before all the spots are all filled up. You do not want to miss this family-friendly, educational experience.

Book a tour with Cajun Encounters today by visiting www.cajunencounters.com or calling 504.834.1770 or begin your walkthrough New Orleans by visiting neworleanslegendarywalkingtours.com or calling 504.503.0199

Why Do Raccoons Wash Their Food?

Raccoons often find themselves in the middle of a love-hate relationship with the general public. Some people adore them for their adorable appearance, but the emphasis is on the word some. Considered the masked bandit of the animal world, raccoons are notorious for their food thievery. This has made many people consider them a nuisance

Eating Habits

Raccoons are omnivores who feed off of plants and small animals, including mice. Over time, they have adapted to living near humans. Since they often find themselves in urban areas that lack fresh food, raccoons are often forced to become opportunistic eaters. As a result, you can often find these little critters rummaging through  garbage cans.

One of the most puzzling things about raccoons is their food cleaning habits, resembling those of a germaphobe. When raccoons find themselves eating near a water source, they have a tendency to dunk their food in the water and roll it around with their paws. In fact, their actual scientific name is Procyon lotor, which literally means the “washing bear”. Food washing, however, is not common among animals. As a result, scientists began researching the real reason behind raccoons strange sanitary act.

Why do raccoons wash their food?

From dry mouth to saliva shortage, many have theorized many different  reasons for this habit, but there is only one idea that studies approve of. The answer lies in their paws, well, the nerve endings in their paws. Raccoons wet their food to gather more sensory information. As a result, moistening food helps raccoons further understand what they are eating.  

Unlike humans, who can rely on their eyesight, racoons depend on their touch to gather the majority of their information. When a raccoon touches an object, it is able to gather nearly two-thirds of its sensory information. Their paws have four to five more mechanoreceptors than most other mammals. As a result, raccoons are able hold, manipulate, and interpret objects on the same level as humans and other intelligent primates.

Why water?

Water plays a very important role in a raccoons sense of touch. Ultimately, it increases the receptiveness of the nerve endings in their paws. As a result, their tactile senses are substantially increased. In a 1986 study published in the Somatosensory Research journal, it was found that wetting the skin on their paws dramatically improved raccoon’s sensitivity. 

Raccoons use water similarly to the way humans use light. When light enters the human eye, the optical nerve response is increased. This makes things easier for humans to see. Similarly, when a raccoon touches water with their paw, their tactile nerves responsiveness improves. As a result, they are able to receive more information about their food. This is important because raccoons are known to eat a variety of foods, and some are not always safe. When scavenging for food in dangerous places, such as garbage cans, it is important for them to be able to identify what is and is not safe to eat.

Book a tour with Cajun Encounters today by visiting www.cajunencounters.com or calling 504.834.1770 or begin your walkthrough New Orleans by visiting neworleanslegendarywalkingtours.com or calling 504.503.0199

Swamps, Bayous, Marshes, oh my! What’s the difference?

For those who are unfamiliar, it is very easy to lump together swamps, bayous, and marshes. While they may seem similar at first glance, they do have a few defining characteristics. 

What are Wetlands?

Wetlands are low-lying areas that are overly saturated with water, both permanent and seasonally. They typically contain hydric soils and aquatic vegetation. It is not uncommon for wetlands to have extended periods of dryness, but its water table is typically at the surface long enough to support aquatic plants each year. 

Wetlands are considered one of the most biologically diverse and productive ecosystems in the world. They occupy an important transition zone between land and water and provide a habitat for a variety of plant and animal species. They play a critical role in amphibian breeding grounds. There are many positive aspects to wetlands. They are known to reduce flood peaks, serve as natural filters, control erosion, and recharge and discharge groundwater.

What is the difference between swamps, bayous, and marshes?

Swamps, bayous, and marshes all fall under the category of a wetland. While they are often viewed as interchangeable, they each serve a different function

Swamps

Swamps are defined as forested wetlands. They are typically next to larger rivers, including the Amazon and Mississippi, as they depend heavily upon their natural water level fluctuations.  Their water can vary, often including fresh, brackish, and sear water. Swamps are comparable to lowland forests, but the main difference lies in the water. Swamps typically have deeper standing water. They are also wetter for longer periods throughout the year.

 Swamps are often characterized by the dominant type of tree that can be found growing there. These trees have adapted over time in order to survive in standing water and constantly saturated dirt. An example of these trees are cypress, cedar, and hardwood. These trees are often the names of swamps. For example, you may come across a hardwood swamp, according to National Geographic.

Bayous

Bayous are characterized as small, sluggish waterways. These marshey outlets often take the form of anabranches, a river or stream that diverts from the main channel of the water course and rejoins later downstream.Their currents have the ability to reverse, resulting in them carrying in brackish water. These outlets are often found in lowlands or swamps. Their water flow is generally so slow it is almost unnoticeable to those viewing it. As a result, they have a tendency to become boggy and stagnant. Bayous can be found criss-crossing across most of Louisiana. 

It is believed that Bayous gained their name from the Native American Choctaw Tribe. It is thought to originate from the word  “bayuk”, meaning “small stream”. No matter the origin, the word bayou was first used in English in Louisiana, which is why it is typically associated with cajun culture.

Marshes

A marsh is characterized by its consistent flooding of water from one source or another. Marshes are typically freshwater sources, and they often exist in areas with poor drainage. This can include stream beds, lakes, and pods. Due to their constant state of wetness, their soil is extremely rich in nutrients. As a result, they have the ability to support a wide variety of plant and animal life. These plants have the ability to bind to the muddy soil, allowing the to slow the flow of water.  

Since saltwater marshes can be found along oceans, they have the ability to be tidal. As a result, there are three kinds of marshes: tidal freshwater marshes, tidal saltwater marshes, and inland freshwater marshes. Tidal freshwater marshes are often characterized by regularly occurring tidal flooding. This allows for an increase in nutrients, resulting in a more fertile and productive ecosystem. Tidal saltwater marshes are flooded and drained by saltwater, leading them to contain decomposing plant material which result in a decrease in oxygen levels. This allows for hypoxia, which produces the notorious “rotten-egg” smell associated with these bodies of water. Inland freshwater marshes are found where the water table is very high, and their characteristics tend to vary depending on the location

Book a tour with Cajun Encounters today by visiting www.cajunencounters.com or calling 504.834.1770 or begin your walkthrough New Orleans by visiting neworleanslegendarywalkingtours.com or calling 504.503.0199

Invasive Species in the Honey Island Swamp

Invasive species are defined as non-indigenous organisms that negatively alter any new environments. These species have the ability to adapt easily and reproduce quickly. While they can have beneficial effects, these invasive species often cause ecological, environmental, and/or economical damage. These species can involve a variety of living organisms, ranging from plants and insects to fungus and bacteria.  

How are They Spread?

Invasive species spreading is typically caused by human activity. These non-indigenous species are often brought in with a purpose. For example, invasive species can be used as a form of pest control in many areas. However, these species can also be introduced through pets or decorative displays. These individuals often do not know how to handle these species, resulting in them releasing them in the wild. The spreading of these species can also be unintentional. Boats tend to carry aquatic organisms on the bottom of their boat or on their propellers

Invasive species can thrive in different environments for two main reasons. One being that they outcompete native species for food. Another reason is due to there being no predators that hunt them. Unfortunately, many of these invasive species can destroy habitats, putting other animals at risk. 

Four Invasive Species Found in the Honey Island Swamp

Out of the world’s 100 worst invasive species, there are four notable invasive species that reside in the Honey Island Swamp

1. Nutria

Image credit: National Geographic Photo Ark

Coypu, more popularly known as Nutria, are large, web-footed rodents. They typically grow to between 17 to 25 inches long, ranging in the same size as raccoon. They resemble a mix between a small beaver and a giant rat.  

 Nutria’s ability to eat approximately 25% of their body weight and their rapid reproduction rate are a major risk factor to any environment that they call home. As a result, they are categorized as an invasive species. Nutria are not just physically invasive to their own environments. They host several diseases and parasites, including tuberculosis, tapeworm, liver flukes, and nematodes. As a result, many bodies of water have become contained by Nutria. This is a risk for anyone or thing that is swimming or drinking in these same areas.

2. Apple Snails

Apple snails, otherwise known as ampullariidae, consist of a family of large freshwater species. They possess the ability to rapidly alter the ecological makeup of whatever environment they are introduced to. This is a direct result of their rapid eating styles and rapid growth rates, categorizing them as an invasive species. 

Apple Snails are considered opportunistic eaters. They can feast on a variety of things, including vegetation and smaller snail species. This can result in a drastic change in nutrient dynamics. Apple snails can change with the seasons, surviving in both terrestrial and aquatic environments. This allows them to lay eggs in a variety of locations, making it nearly impossible to contain them.

3. Wild Boar

Perhaps one of the most loved animals on the Cajun Encounters Tour is the wild boar. Unfortunately, they fall under the category of invasive species. Wild boars are typically bulky built and short in stature, possessing short and thin legs. Their heads take up to one-third of their body’s entire length and showcase a mouth full of well-developed canine teeth. As omnivores, their diet is highly versatile. They typically consume up to 4,000 calories per day.

Wild boars are considered one of the widest-ranging mammals in the world.  Their wide range, high numbers, and adaptability is why they are considered invasive.  Along with these attributes, wild boars are known to host at least 20 different parasitic worm species and multiple parasites. These diseases not only affect wild boars themselves, but also humans and other animals.

4. Water Hyacinth

Contrary to popular belief, water hyacinth is not a native Louisiana plant. While they are commonly found in multiple areas throughout the state, they are considered an invasive species. The water hyacinth consists of dark green, waxy leaves connected to a bulb-shaped petiole. Their roots have the ability to extend for 2-3 feet beneath, allowing them to start a completely new plant. Their size varies, ranging anywhere from 3 to 12 inches.

This plant is known for creating dense floating carpets on ponds, lakes, and bayous.  Ultimately, they block the sunlight from penetrating the water’s surface. As a result, submerged plants are often killed and oxygen levels decrease. In addition, their decaying leaves often drop off into the water. This results in an increase in sedimentation rates in the waterway.

Book a tour with Cajun Encounters today by visiting www.cajunencounters.com or calling 504.834.1770 or begin your walkthrough New Orleans by visiting neworleanslegendarywalkingtours.com or calling 504.503.0199