By Kevin Shannahan
Rising water levels on the Cane River and a favorable environment have led to an increase in the area’s alligator population. Combine that with more housing meaning more people living and boating on the Cane and there has been quite an increase in alligator sightings lately.
Louisiana’s Secretary of Wildlife and Fisheries, Jack Montouchet, and several of his staff members attended the Cane River Waterway Commission’s meeting Tuesday, June 18. Secretary Montouchet and his staff were invited to the meeting to discuss methods to address the alligator problem.
Jeb Linscombe, the department’s Fur and Alligator Program Manager, stated that the single best thing to be done is education. Alligators have a natural fear of humans. Feeding an alligator will cause it to lose that fear. That means more than not giving it food on purpose (as obviously a bad idea as that sounds, people do it.) Have you ever fished in the Cane and thrown the fish guts in the river? Have you thrown crawfish heads in the river after a crawfish boil at your house? You just fed the alligators without realizing it. Things like that are some of the major reasons alligators lose their fear of humans and associate them with food.
To help address the problem, the Cane River Waterway Commission introduced an ordinance to prohibit feeding alligators in Cane River Lake.
What is a nuisance alligator? A nuisance alligator is one over 4 feet in length that presents a threat to pets, livestock or humans. This usually is a result of its having lost its fear of people. This is definitely the case if the alligator comes directly at you, especially if it comes out of the water. Alligators are naturally attracted to fishing lures for the same reason fish are, but one who follows boats or maintains a close distance without submerging may be considered a nuisance alligator.
How does one report a nuisance alligator in Louisiana? There are 8 regional offices of the LDWF throughout the state. Natchitoches is covered by the Alexandria office at 318-487-5885. A person who wishes to report a nuisance alligator may call any office however. The others are: Baton Rouge 225-765-2811, Lake Charles 337-491-2575, Minden 318-371-3050, Monroe 318-343-4044, Lafayette 337-262-2080, Rockefeller 337-538-2276 and Thibodaux 985-447-0821. Operation Game Thief, while mainly used to report poachers, is monitored 24 hours a day and may also be called to report a nuisance alligator at 800-442-2511. Lastly, Jeb Linscombe, Fur and Alligator Program Director, may be reached at 337-735-8671. The state contracts with trained nuisance alligator hunters who will either dispose of the alligator or relocate it depending on the circumstances.
The Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries has a handy list of Dos and Don’ts for Living With Alligators.
Don’t kill, harass, molest or attempt to move alligators. State law prohibits this and the potential for being bitten or injured by a provoked alligator is high.
Do – call your local LDWF office if you encounter a nuisance alligator who has lost his fear of humans.
Don’t – allow small children to play by themselves in or around water.
Do – closely supervise children when playing in, or around, water,
Don’t – swim at night or during dusk or dawn when alligators most actively feed.
Don’t – feed or entice alligators. Alligators overcome their natural shyness and become accustomed, or attracted to humans when fed.
Do – inform others that feeding alligators creates safety problems for others who want to use the water for recreational purposes.
Don’t – throw fish scraps into the water or leave them on shore. Although you are not intentionally feeding the alligators, the end result can be the same.
Do – dispose of fish scraps in garbage cans at most boat ramps or fish camps.
Don’t remove any alligators from their natural habitat or accept one as a pet. It is a violation of state law to do so. Alligators do not become tame in captivity and handling even small ones may result in bites. In particular, never go near hatching/young alligators or pick them up. They may seem cute and harmless, but mother alligator will be nearby, and will protect her clutch for at least two years.
Do – enjoy viewing and photographing wild alligators from a safe distance of at least 50 feet or more. Remember that they are an important part of Louisiana’s natural history, as well as an integral component of many wetland systems.
The Cane River Waterway Commission is making an effort to proactively address this problem by both educating the public and introducing an ordinance prohibiting the feeding of alligators in Cane River Lake. Please do your part in keeping the Cane River a safe place to live and have fun!