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Don’t Take Gators for Granted
Alligators are one of Louisiana’s most popular residents. While these large reptiles are one of the swamp’s more resilient species, they still face plenty of threats in a rapidly changing world. In fact, American alligators were at risk of extinction less than 100 years ago. While this iconic reptile’s population has increased to healthier amounts since being placed on the US government’s endangered species list in 1967, alligators remain a fragile member of Louisiana’s ecosystem. Here are a few of the most pressing threats to alligators.
The most immediate threat to alligators is habitat destruction. Various forms of human activity have altered many of the swamps that alligators live in. These changes often render the areas in question inhospitable to alligator survival. For example, some swamps are drained on purpose and converted into human built environments, like residential areas and industrial facilities. These developments don’t only destroy alligators’ habitats – they also threaten the various creatures that alligators rely on for food.
Some forms of habitat loss are more indirect. Centuries of economic activity has produced an extensive network of canals in South Louisiana that allow saltwater into freshwater wetlands. Most of the swamp’s vegetation that alligators rely on for shelter, nesting, and raising their young can’t survive on saltwater. Once the vegetation dies, the land that it supports dissolves into the Gulf of Mexico. Man-made levees along the Mississippi River have also prevented the periodic flooding that replenishes wetland terrain with soil and nutrients.
The world’s changing climate poses serious threats to alligators. Rising sea levels are likely to swallow up many of the wetlands that alligators thrive in. More extreme temperatures during the winter months can lead to rising mortality rates at the time of year when alligators are at their most vulnerable due to their cold-blooded nature. Since alligators’ sex determination depends on temperature during incubation, higher temperatures caused by climate impact during their breeding season could also lead to a growing sex imbalance in the Louisiana alligator population.
While habitat loss is the biggest threat to alligators today, hunting was the primary reason that the American alligator was approaching extinction by the mid-20th century. Alligator hides were once immensely popular in the leather industry. Demand for these hides dealt a catastrophic blow to the American alligator population. However, aggressive measures taken by all levels of the United States government has restored the alligator population across the Southeast. While hunting no longer poses a dramatic threat to alligators in Louisiana, alligator hunting is still heavily regulated by the state and federal governments.
Learn More on an Eco-Friendly Swamp Tour New Orleans
While American alligators once risked extinction, they now represent a successful endangered species recovery story. However, the wetlands they inhabit still face a number of serious threats, leaving their future uncertain. That’s why New Orleans swamp tours offer a great way to learn more about alligators’ beautiful habitats, as well as get up-close and personal to these majestic creatures!
Professional New Orleans swamp tour guides will educate you on efforts to protect the swamp while making sure that your eco-friendly journey through the bayou is exciting and fun. Book your New Orleans swamp tour adventure today and get ready for an educational and fun experience!