Don’t feed the alligators!

Patti Griffith photo

By Juanice Gray,

You should never feed an alligator. Recent reports of owners of tourist related businesses providing photo opportunities and from homeowners along Cane River feeding alligators have prompted the Cane River Waterway Commission to take proactive action. The Commission will introduce an ordinance at their June 18 meeting to make feeding alligators illegal.

Commissioner Jim Rhodes said the ordinance will include a fine for violators. “Gators will learn that you are a food source,” Rhodes said. Alligators do not know the difference between the splash from a chicken carcass from that of a pet or child falling into the water.

The splash is the same.

The bite will be the same.

The La. Dept. of Wildlife and Fisheries (LDWF) state on their website that ample photo opportunities arise as gators float on the surface or sun themselves on the banks of water sources. Rhodes said the Commission is being proactive before there are incidents of gators attacking pets, tame ducks or worse, people.

Rhodes said he knows of dog owners who train their duck dogs by throwing “dummies” into Cane River for them to retrieve. “If the alligators are being fed in the area, the gators could think it was feeding time and come after the dog. We don’t want that to happen,” Rhodes said.

Cheryl Blaine Clark photo

Alligators are wild, predatory animals that should be treated with caution and respect. Although an adult gator can outrun a man over a short distance, they generally do not bother humans and unprovoked attacks are rare. However, feeding the reptiles can cause them to lose their fear of humans and become aggressive.

“Cane River is also a place for recreation like swimming and riding jet skis. We want to keep the water as safe as possible. When there is the possibility of someone being attacked by a gator that has been fed, well, we want to take measures to make sure that doesn’t happen,” Rhodes said.

In some instances alligators will become nuisances.

First, know it is illegal to kill nuisance alligators in Louisiana and no gator under 4 feet is considered a nuisance. The proper procedure is to report the alligator to a nuisance alligator trapper.

Charles C. Rachal photo

Ecologists point out that, despite their fearsome appearance, alligators are among nature’s most valuable creatures. They feed on water moccasins and other poisonous snakes, thus keeping in check the populations of these potentially harmful creatures. Also, when ponds and lakes dry up in times of drought alligators dig water holes, thus helping the other animals to survive. This provides habitat for fish and turtles, and places to feed and drink for birds and mammals.

If safety of children and pets is not enough of a deterrent to refrain from feeding the gators, maybe the cost of fines will seal the deal. LDWF information officer Adam Einck said, “It is illegal to take an alligator out of season. Period.”

Michelle Bartmess Williams photo

Fines for a violation is $400 – $950 plus 120 days in jail. Fines for taking an alligator without a license are $250 – $500 plus 90 days in jail.

Danielle Conde snapped this photo of a gator swimming in Cane River.
Carey Hamblin snapped this photo of an alligator getting some sun Cane River.
Photo by Danielle Conde