While travelling down the Honey Island Swamp, guests are guaranteed to encounter a variety of species, including pigs, birds, and deer. One of its main and most known inhabitants, however, is the large, aquatic reptile known as the American alligator. Those travelling with Cajun Encounters are able to experience these creatures first hand and are able to see all of their characteristics up close.
Head shape and color plays a major role in distinguishing the American alligator from the American crocodile. Alligators possess a broad, rounded snout, and when their mouths are closed, their lower teeth are no longer visible. They are covered in armored plates known as scutes and have vertically flattened tails. Colors can vary throughout adult and juvenile alligator populations. Adult alligators are often dark grey in color with a lighter colored underside, and juvenile alligators have light-colored strips on their sides in order to camouflage themselves with their surrounding environment.
Contrary to popular belief, Alligators are not green in color. This misconception stems from the environment alligators are found in, typically involving green algae and floating vegetation that can stick to their backs. In terms of length, female alligators are usually ten feet or less, but males do have the ability to grow larger than that.
Alligators are typically opportunistic feeders with diets that involve prey often abundant in numbers. Juvenile alligators are known to primarily feed on insects, amphibians, small fish, and other invertebrates. Adult alligators feed on slightly bigger prey, including fish, snakes, turtles, small mammals, and birds.
Alligators are ectothermic, otherwise known as cold-blooded, and they regulate their body temperature by staying in sunny areas with warmer water. They are the most active in areas where the temperature reaches between 82 to 92 degrees Fahrenheit. When the temperatures drop below 70 degrees Fahrenheit, alligators stop feeding, and by the time it is below 55 degrees Fahrenheit, they are completely dormant. During the colder times of the year, they are often tucked away in burrows, but they do occasionally emerge to bask in the warm sun.
The main threat that the American alligator faces in the destruction and degradation of wetland habitats. The Honey Island Swamp works hard to ensure that these reptiles can live freely and safely, protecting approximately 34,869 of its 70,000 acres by making it government sanctioned as a permanently protected wildlife area.