Water Moccasins Versus Water Snakes

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There are many snakes that reside in water, the majority of which are harmless. When people are afraid of snakes, then all snakes look the same to them. This results in many harmless snakes being confused with the deadly water moccasin, or the cottonmouth. As a result, they are killed out of fear.

These deaths could be prevented if people were able to distinguish between a water moccasin and a simple water snake. The best way to accomplish this is by learning the most noticeable differences. This will allow individuals to quickly assess the threat and risk factors of the snake they have encountered.

What is a Water Moccasin?

The water moccasin, otherwise known as the cottonmouth, is the only venomous water snake located in North America. They are categorized as pit vipers. This means they have heat-sensing facial pits located between their eyes and nostrils.

Water moccasins are often on the larger side, measuring between 2 to 4 feet long. They are known for having cat-like pupils and large jowls, stemming from their venom glands. Water moccasins possess a few unique identifying features, one being the dark stripes by each nostril. The other is their large, triangular heads attached to a slender neck. This aids in their identification because not many other snakes have a distinctive neck.

What are Water Snakes?

Harmless water snakes are often mistaken for water moccasins, but they actually come from two different families. Unlike water moccasins, water snakes do not possess pits on their face or triangular-shaped heads. 

Water snakes can vary in color depending on the species. However, the most common colors seen are brown, gray, olive green, and red. These colors can change depending on whether the snake is wet or dry. Size varies depending on the type of water snake. For example, the northern water snake can reach up to 5 feet. In comparison, other species can reach up to 3 feet. Females tend to grow faster, heavier, and larger than their male counterparts.

Harmless Water Snake versus Venomous Water Moccasin

There are two major differences to consider when trying to distinguish between a harmless water snake and a venomous water moccasin. 

Body Shape

water moccasin Cajun Encounters

Water moccasins are characterized by having very thick and heavy bodies with short, thick tails. This is unique when comparing the size of other snakes that are equal in length.  In contrast, harmless water snakes are characterized by long, slender bodies. Unlike the water moccasin, their bodies are more slender for their length, and their tails are longer.

Head Shape

water moccasin Cajun Encounters
Image Credit: KingsleyLake.org

As stated above, water moccasins are known for their thicker heads. Their heads are large and bulky, but their necks are distinctly narrower. The inside of their mouth is also white in color. This is how they gained the nickname “cottonmouth”.  In comparison, harmless water snakes have more slender heads. Due to their heads looking flattened, their necks are not as distinct as the water moccasin’s.

If you are approached by a snake in a water environment, it is always best to move to a safer location. While snake attacks are rare, these reptiles are known to stand their ground and attack when they feel it is necessary. Always take your safety into consideration before your curiosity.

water moccasin Cajun Encounters

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

Swamp Tour Essentials: What To Bring?

Swamp Tour Essentials

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With cooler weather approaching and COVID restrictions lessening, it is the perfect time to schedule a trip to the swamp, and Cajun Encounters is just what you are looking for. From alligators to raccoons, you will be able to see a wide variety of swamp animals in their natural environment. If this is your first time to a swamp, or the south in general, do not worry. Here is a list of five swamp tour essentials you can bring to ensure that you are the best prepared.

Bug Repellent

Bug Repellent

Out in the swamp, it is natural for little creepy crawlers to be out and about.  However, the winds from the moving boat typically keep them at bay. If you decide to explore the surrounding areas of the swamp, you do risk getting bitten by a bug. To lower the risk of being someone’s next treat, it is always best to wear bug repellent on a swamp tour.

Sunscreen

sunscreen

In the south, the sun has a tendency to feel extra hot. While our boats do have overhead covers, you still run the risk of getting some sun exposure. While swamp tours are enjoyable, sunburns are not. It is best to wear sunscreen when in these outdoor conditions, especially if you have fair skin or are prone to sunburn.

Rain Wear

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In Louisiana, you can pretty much count on the weather not being predictable whatsoever. Sunny radar forecasts do not always guarantee sunny skies. This will not ruin your experience, but guests who bring rain wear can protect themselves from getting wet if their tour does happen to get rained on.

Sunglasses

swamp tour essentials Cajun Encounters

As stated previously, the sun can get extremely hot in the south, and its reflection on the water can disrupt your vision. Make sure not to miss any animal sightings by wearing sunglasses on your tour.

Comfortable Clothing

swamp tour essentials Cajun Encounters

Clothing recommendations can change according to the weather, but one thing remains the same. Comfortable and casual clothing is your best option. For those who have a tendency to get cold quickly, a light jacket is a great choice when picking out your outfit.

If you find yourself without any of these items upon arrival, do not worry. Each item above can be found inside the gift shop located at Cajun Encounters. While you’re there, we encourage you to look around and purchase some snacks and souvenirs. 

swamp tour essentials Cajun Encounters

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

Venomous versus Non-Venomous Snakes

venomous snakes

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Snakes are slender, cold-blooded reptiles who are known for having long bodies and no legs. While there are over 3,000 species of snakes, they all tend to look the same when you possess a strong dislike for them. Whether harmless or poisonous, they are all considered an enemy when in the same vicinity as you. Harmless snakes, however, should not face the same consequences as their deadlier counterparts. 

What is the difference?

Non-venomous snakes aid in the population control of common pests, such as rats and mice. These harmless snakes have even been known to prey on poisonous snakes. As a result, there is a reduced chance of people coming into contact with these deadly reptiles. Throughout several parts of the world, harmless snakes are seen as beneficial to the environment.

In contrast, one of the only positive things about venomous snakes is that they can be used in discovering and developing new medicine. Snake venom can affect blood pressure and blood clotting. As such, scientists can use that same venom to develop new drugs to treat these health issues. Snake venom has been used to treat a variety of conditions, including cancer, pain, high blood pressure, heart attacks, and strokes. 

How to Distinguish Between Venomous and Non-Venomous Snakes

There are four types of poisonous snakes that exist in the United States: rattlesnakes, copperheads, cottonmouths (or water moccasins), and coral snakes. It is estimated that more than 7,000 Americans are bitten by a poisonous snake each year. Due to this reason, it is important to be able to distinguish between venomous and nonvenomous snakes. Different snake bites require different medical assistance. By understanding which snake has bitten you, you are able to accurately assess your potential risks, increasing your chances of survival.  

Here are a few notable things to consider in order to help you understand the type of snake you have come in contact with.

1. Head Shape and Pits

venomous snakes Cajun Encounters
Image credit: snakesox.com

Venomous snakes have a distinct head shape. Their heads are typically wide at the back and attached to a narrow neck. This gives off a triangular-shaped appearance. While this can be seen as a good indicator, it is not always accurate. It is known that non-venomous snakes have a tendency to flatten their heads into a more triangular shape, appearing more dangerous to potential predators. This can lead to them being confused with venomous snakes. As a result, poisonous snakes cannot be identified solely by head shape.

Another indicator that can assist in further identification is the pits (or holes) that appear on their heads. Rattlesnakes, copperheads, cottonmouths, and coral snakes all fall under the category of pit vipers. This means that each snake has two pits that appear on their snouts. Pits resemble nostrils and are located midway and slightly below the eye. Non-venomous snakes do not have pits.

2. Pupils

venomous snakes Cajun Encounters
Image Credit: asawright.org

A snake’s pupils can be a great indicator when trying to determine whether it is venomous or not. Poisonous snakes’ eyes are comparable to a cat’s eye, as they possess slit-like elliptical pupils. In contrast, harmless snakes have round pupils. With that being said, this identification method can be dangerous. It is better to keep a safe distance when observing a snake. 

3. Coloring

venomous snakes Cajun Encounters
Image Credit: snake_removal.com

While there are only four types of venomous snakes in the United States, each type contains several subspecies that come in a variety of sizes and colors. As a result, color may not be a completely accurate method in distinguishing between venomous and non-venomous snakes. With that being said, there are some color aspects that can be useful in identification. If a snake has solid colors, it is often harmless. Comparably, if the snake is more patterned and colorful, it is a good idea to use caution when approaching. There are exceptions to each of these rules, but they are great to take into consideration.

4. Tails

venomous snakes Cajun Encounters

One noticeable identifier can be a snake’s tail. Young cottonmouths and copperheads can be identified by their tails. They are often bright yellow or greenish-yellow in color. Of course, one of the major identifiers of a venomous snake’s tail is if it rattles. If you hear a rattling sound, you are about to come into contact with one of the most poisonous snakes. You should safely flee the area as soon as possible. While non-venomous snakes can replicate rattling noises, it is always better to be safer than sorry.  You should not risk your life to satisfy your curiosity. 

5. Behavior

Behavior can be used in distinguishing between venomous and non-venomous snakes. Each snake exhibits different behaviors and characteristics. With a wide variety of behavior, however, it can be difficult for an untrained individual to remember the differences. A few noticeable behavioral differences can be seen in rattlesnakes and cottonmouths. Rattlesnakes tend to shake their tails and omit loud clicking noises when threatened, but not all rattlesnakes have rattles. Cottonmouths, or water moccasins, swim with their entire body on the water’s surface while non-venomous snakes only allow their heads above the water.

Encountering a Snake

In the event that you encounter a snake, the best thing to do is to move to safety. If you are unable to do that, you can then assess the situation and determine if the snake is venomous or non-venomous. In the case that the snake is not interfering with your safety, it is always better to let it slither away rather than approach it. 

Thankfully, snakes rarely attack humans unless they feel threatened. If you are bitten, however, there are a few steps you can follow. First, no matter the type of snake, it is always best to treat it like an emergency. If possible, you should head to your nearest emergency room or call an ambulance if needed. 

The next, and possibly most important, step is to stay calm. While this is easier said than done, panicking can result in the potential poison spreading quicker. Do not search for the snake that bit you, but rather stay still and try to remember any identifying features. If possible, seek out first aid from those around you. 

More Tips

Along with these steps, there are a few additional tips that can help in the aftermath of being bitten. Be sure to remove any jewelry from the bitten area as swelling can and will occur. Contrary to popular belief, do not attempt to cut, suck, wash, or press the bite. The best thing to do is fasten a pressure immobilization splint and bandage, but make sure not to restrict blood flow completely. Be sure to change your position in order to elevate the bitten area level with or below where your heart is. Finally, do not apply ice or a tourniquet, and do not drink caffeine or alcohol.

venomous snakes Cajun Encounters

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

Alligators versus Crocodiles: What’s the Difference?

alligators-versus-crocodiles

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Dating back over 240 million years, the Crocodylia lineage has outlived the dinosaurs by over 65 million years. For many, crocodiles and alligators are easily interchangeable and often considered one and the same. In a way, it is easy to confuse these massive creatures. Both are viewed as large reptiles with toothy grins and rough, bumpy skin that have the ability to live on land or in water. 

Similarities Between Alligators and Crocodiles

Among many physical similarities, both have eyes situated on the top of their heads. This enables them to look out for prey while remaining primarily underwater. Their eyes possess the same vertical pupils which helps them to open their eyes extra wide. This not only allows more light to pass through their eyes but also allows them to have night vision. Both alligators and crocodiles possess large, powerful tails. This assists them in swiftly propelling themselves through the water. 

These features help both alligators and crocodiles to catch a variety of prey. This is why they are considered expert hunters. From fish to buffalo, these reptiles are able to eat whatever they can get their jaws on. Since their teeth are specialized particularly for spearing, it is very difficult for prey to escape once captured. If small enough, alligators and crocodiles often swallow their prey whole. Unfortunately for their prey, both alligators and crocodiles possess an unlimited supply of teeth. This means they are able to regrow teeth anytime they are lost. 

Differences Between Alligators and Crocodiles

With a long list of similarities, you are probably wondering what the differences are between alligators and crocodiles. While these two reptile groups are closely related in many categories, there are major differences between them.

Snout and Jawline Shape

alligators versus crocodiles Cajun Encounters

At first glance, people may believe that alligators and crocodiles have the same snouts, but this is not true. Alligators have a wider, U-shaped snout. This is different from the more pointed, V-shaped snout that crocodiles have. Both have razor-sharp teeth lining their snouts, which they use to capture and hold onto prey. The difference lies in how these teeth can be viewed.  

When looking at an alligator, only the top teeth are visible. This is due to their upper jaw being wider than their lower jaw. As a result, the bottom teeth disappear when their mouths are no longer open. Both sets of teeth can be seen when Crocodiles close their mouths. This is due to both of their jaws being similar in width, allowing the top and bottom teeth to interlock.

Size and Weight

alligators versus crocodiles Cajun Encounters

It is no doubt that both alligators and crocodiles are massive reptiles. With that being said, they do vary in size. While sizing depends on the particular species, crocodiles have a tendency to grow larger than the average alligator. Adult crocodiles can grow to approximately 19 feet long, while adult alligators can grow to 14 feet long.

Skin

alligators versus crocodiles Cajun Encounters

A noticeable difference between alligators and crocodiles lies in the color and texture of their skin. Crocodiles are often lighter in color compared to alligators, often associated with being a light tan or olive color. 

In contrast, alligators are often a mix between black and grey. The shade of their skin directly depends on the environment in which the alligator swims in. For example, they often appear darker when swimming in environments with overhanging trees due to tannic acid. In contrast, they appear greener in areas where algae is abundant. 

Both crocodiles and alligators have sensory organs on their skin. These are seen in the form of small pits called integumentary sensor organs, otherwise known as ISO. This plays a role in helping both crocodiles and alligators locate their prey. ISO allows them to sense small pressure changes made throughout the water by other animals. 

ISO appears as small dots that can be seen on both reptiles, but the main difference lies in the placement. On crocodiles, ISO covers the majority of the body. In comparison, it is only seen around the mouths of alligators. 

Behavior

alligators versus crocodiles Cajun Encounters

A major difference between alligators and crocodiles can be found in the behavioral patterns. It is true that both reptiles are extremely dangerous, but their behavior differs from one another. Alligators are relatively timid compared to crocodiles. If approached, alligators have a tendency to try to escape rather than attack. However, they will attack if necessary, specifically if they are provoked, unexpectedly approached, or defending their young. Alligators are often more afraid of humans than the other way around. Regular contact, however, can cause them to lose that fear. Feeding them can result in them viewing humans as a source of food. This often results in them mistaking small children and family pets as prey.  

In contrast, crocodiles are often bad-tempered and more likely to attack humans, often unprovoked. Following the Nile crocodile, Australian saltwater crocodiles are viewed as the most dangerous in the world. Thankfully, American crocodiles are less aggressive and more timid, rarely attacking humans. While you are more likely to be attacked by an alligator than a crocodile in America, individuals getting attacked by either are extremely unlikely to happen. In fact, it is believed that Americans are more likely to be killed by a shark than an alligator or crocodile.

Location

alligators versus crocodiles Cajun Encounters

In the United States, individuals are more likely to see an alligator than a crocodile. This is due to the notably larger alligator population in comparison to the crocodile population. There are approximately 3 million alligators to an estimated 2,000 crocodiles in the US. 

One key difference between alligators and crocodiles is their preferred habitat. Crocodiles are often found in areas dominated by low-flowing rivers and grasslands. This includes Africa, Australia, Southeast Asia, North American, South America, and Central America. Unlike alligators, the crocodile’s lingual salt glands are extremely well-developed. As a result, they are able to expel excess salt from their bodies. This allows them to live in saline water for weeks at a time.   

In comparison, alligators are more common in China and the Southeastern portion of the United States, including Florida and the Gulf Coast states. This is a result of their less developed lingual glands, which forces alligators to stick to freshwater habitats. Alligators can often be found in freshwater marshes and slow-moving streams, but some do reside in brackish water (a mixture of saltwater and freshwater). The only area in the world where both alligators and crocodiles can be found living together is the Florida Everglades.

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

Swamps, Bayous, Marshes, Oh My! What’s the Difference?

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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 unique characteristics. 

What are Wetlands?

Wetlands are low-lying areas that are overly saturated with water, both permanently 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 plant life 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. Wetlands have several positive qualities: 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

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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 trees that can be found growing there. These trees have adapted over time in order to survive in standing water and constantly saturated dirt. Examples 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

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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 crisscrossing 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

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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 ponds. 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 roots 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 results 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.

swamps Cajun Encounters

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

invasive species Cajun Encounters
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

invasive species Cajun Encounters

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

invasive species Cajun Encounters

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

invasive species Cajun Encounters

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.

invasive species Cajun Encounters

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

Alligators in the Honey Island Swamp

While travelling down the Honey Island Swamp, guests are guaranteed to encounter a variety a species, including pigs, birds, and deer. One of its main and most known inhabits, 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.

Appearance

Head shape and color plays a major role in distinguishing American alligators from the American crocodile. Alligators tend to possess a broad, rounded snot 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 alligators. Adult alligators are often dark grey in color with a lighter colored underside, and juvenile alligators use 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 10 feet or less, but males do have the ability to grow larger than that.

Behavior

Alligators are typically opportunistic feeders with diets that involved prey species that are often abundant in numbers and accessible in nature.  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 month, they are often tucked away in burrows, but they do occasionally emerge to bask in the warm weather.

Threats

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 by protecting approximately 34,869 of its 70,000 acres by making it government sanctioned as a permanently protected wildlife area.

honey island swamp Cajun Encounters

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

Tour the Honey Island Swamp

Geography

Honey Island Swamp is one of the most natural and untarnished habitats in the United States. Located in St. Tammany Parish, this marshland earned its name from the swarms of honeybees found near the surrounding areas. It is bordered by U.S. 11 on its north side, the Pearl River on its east side, Lake Borgne on its south side, and West Pearl River on its west side.

Honey Island Swamp spans over 70,000 acres, measuring in over 20 miles long and 7 miles wide, with 35, 619 of those acres’ being government sanctioned by the Pearl River Wildlife Management Area in order to protect the local wildlife that thrives there.

The Wildlife

The Honey Island Swamp is rich in wildlife and is the home of many different species, including but not limited to: alligators, wild boars, black bears, racoons, nutrias, owls, eagles, snakes, turtles, and, of course, fish. Alligators can often be seen lounging on the banks and bathing in the sun. The most common sightings include red wolves, white tail deer, and wild boar, but only a select few have been able to spot the elusive Florida cougar. Birds are often seen tangled in the trees as visitors drift by underneath, including Yellow-crowned Night Herons, White Ibises, and Anhinga.

Considered a trademark of Louisiana culture, Crawfish often attract their fair share of attention to this marshland, but the wide variety of fish keep people coming back. Fishermen can often find an abundance of flathead catfish, bluegill, sunfish, largemouth bass, and buffalo fish under the water of Honey Island Swamp.

The Plant Life

Along with animal species, the Honey Island Swamp possesses a wide variety of plants, including poisonous and nonpoisonous. Large Bald Cypress and Birch trees assist in creating much-needed shade and shadows on the water throughout the dense forest. Spanish Moss is seen everywhere, spreading its tendrils throughout the murky tea-colored waters.

Honey Island Swamp Monster

According to Louisiana folklore, the Honey Island Swamp is home to its very own cyprid, referred to as the Honey Island Swamp Monster. The myth describes the ape-like creature as 7 feet tall, covered in grey hair with red or yellow eyes, and footprints consisting of three or four webbed toes.

How did the monster end up in Louisiana? Legend has it a train wreck involving a travel circus resulted in a group of chimpanzees escaping into the swampland, forcing them to adapt to their surrounding areas. The first claimed sighting of this bigfoot-like creature was by wildlife photographer, Harlen Ford, in 1963. The myth, however, did not fully form until 1980 when a reel of what was believed to be video evidence of this monster was found in his belongings. Strange footprints found in 1974 only fueled the legend, cementing the Honey Island Swamp Monster as an interesting part of Louisiana folklore. While there have not been any recent recorded sightings, that does not stop the speculation of this legendary monster’s existence and whereabouts.

Looking for a little adventure? Come see the beauty of Honey Island Swamp and its variety of animals and thriving plant life yourself. Book a tour today online or call 504.834.1770!

How Littering Affects the Pearl River and Honey Island Swamp

Cajun Encounters Tour Company’s owner, Jeff Rogers, grew up on the Pearl River and knows how important it is to take care of the land that takes care of you. Last month, Jeff and his captains took advantage of the slow time due to COVID-19 and spent the day cleaning up the river. They were joined by Jolene Cruzan with the House of Blues Foundation Room.
The Honey Island Swamp is nestled peacefully between U.S. 11, Lake Borgne, the Pearl River, and the West Pearl River. It is one of the most pristine swamps remaining in the United States. The 70,000 acres is home to a variety of wildlife including alligators, wild boars, raccoons, owls, snakes, turtles, nutria, bald eagles, and even back bears. Thousands of people visit the area each year along the Pearl River, hoping to catch a glimpse of an alligator or other elusive form of wildlife. Unfortunately, with people there comes littering.

Littering continues to be a large problem in the Honey Island Swamp and along the Pearl River. From small items, such as bottles and candy wrappers, to large items such as water heaters and tires, the discarded items of someones adventure is a stark reminder of the dangers for wildlife, and the people living along the river. The people who live along the river, and the wildlife who call the swamp home, rely on unpolluted water for survival.

Plastic items that enter the river can have a detrimental effect on the wildlife that live there. If an animal eats even a small piece of plastic, their bodies turn that plastic into harmful toxins. Since so many of the animals in the Pearl River are used for human food (crawfish, fish, alligator, etc.) these toxins are then consumed by people causing illness. Animals are also strangled on a regular bases by discarded six-pack rings, plastic bags, and other plastics.

Littering also consists of improperly discarded food waste and other organic materials. These items can cause increased algae blooms which deplete the oxygen in the water leading to health and safety issues for the wildlife living there. The littering of food and other edible items can lead to more aggressive animals and more animal attacks.

Litter also blocks storm drains and draining systems, which can lead to increased flooding risks in an area already prone to flooding due to naturally occurring weather events such as heavy rains and hurricanes.

As the discarded trash flows down the river what isn’t caught up along the way becomes part of the nine billion tons of litter that ends up in our oceans every year. Have you ever wondered how long it takes this litter to go away? Here’s a general idea.

• Plastic bags- 100-1000 years
• Plastic bottles- over 450 years
• Aluminum cans- 80-200 years
• Glass- glass can take up to a million years to fully decompose.
• Cigarette butts- 10-12 years
• Plywood- 1-3 years
• Painted Wood- 13 years
• Cardboard- 2 months
• Lumber- 10-15 years

We would love to have you come visit our swamp and enjoy the best that nature has to offer. All we ask is that if you pack in in, please pack it out. Help us ensure that the Honey Island Swamp and the Pearl River can be a place for future generations to enjoy.

Cajun Encounters Rated Top Swamp Tour by Travelocity

Cajun Encounters’ Award Winning Swamp Tour is one of the "Top Things to do with kids in New Orleans," as featured by Travelocity on December 30, 2019.

As Danielle Braff writes, “You’ll be on a flat-bottomed boat in the swamp, where you’ll spot and learn about alligators, who will be friendly as long as they’re not threatened. This is true Louisiana.”