Ask anyone who’s never been to Louisiana their perception of our state and they’ll most likely summarize it in three words: Cajun food, swamps – and alligators. And for good reason, Louisiana has the world’s largest wild alligator population, some 2.2 million, with another million or so raised on farms, according to the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries (LDWF). Additionally, the intrigue with the mysterious swamp beasts, has brought a reported $250 million in alligator tourism each year.

However, the bulk of alligator money comes from the export of farmed alligators and wild hides. LDWF reported that Louisiana alligator farmers harvested 438,577 farm-raised alligators, alone, in 2019. Hunting season begins in our area the first Wednesday of September and continues for 60 days.

Most Louisiana alligators live in coastal marshy areas, although many can be found in swamps, rivers, bayous and lakes. Lake Martin, in Lafayette, is one of the most alligator-populated lakes in Louisiana. For those that can escape hunters, the average lifetime in the wild is 50 years.

Life begins when mother alligators nest in fresh water and lay their eggs on a mound of dirt. Oddly enough, the sex of an alligator is determined by climate. If the temperature in the baby alligator nest is warm, male alligators are born; if the temperature is cool, the babies are females. When the eggs are ready to hatch, the baby alligators use an “egg tooth” on top of their snouts to break the shell. Amazingly, babies from the same hatchling can have different fathers. It’s thought that because the father alligators don’t know which ones belong to them, they eat a small percentage. If you ever have the opportunity to pet a baby alligator, take it; because they grow at a pace of one foot a year from birth to age five.

Growing up, they eat mostly fish, turtles, birds, and mammals, but most recently it’s been discovered that they do eat fruit, such as elderberries, citrus fruits and wild grapes, as well as vegetables, seeds, and legumes.

No Gator Tales- More Fun Facts

-Alligators can run up to 35 mph—faster than most humans—but they can’t keep that pace for long. In the water, they can lunge out up to 30 mph.

-They are cold-blooded animals, and because air temperature is higher than that of the water is one reason you’ll see them on land.

-The reptiles have about 75 teeth in their long mouths, which would explain the bite that is reportedly able to bear down a force of nearly 3,000 pounds per inch, making their clasp among the most powerful in the world. As their teeth wear down or break off, they are replaced. As a result, alligators can grow about 3,000 teeth over the course of their lives.

-One study found that wild alligator blood has both antibiotic and antiviral properties.

-Just before alligators go through a dormancy period during colder months, they use their feet and snouts to dig out a “gator hole,” a tunnel in the mud that can be up to 65 feet long.

-Alligators are known as the “loudest reptiles” in the world because of their roar. Yes, both males and females give loud roars, recorded with decibels about as loud as a lawn mower, when they’re mating or to scare off potential predators.

Check out The Great American Alligator Museum on Magazine Street in New Orleans which chronicles the reptile’s habitat and anatomy, its contributions to commerce and tourism and houses the oldest known alligator fossil dating back 70 million years.

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