Tags Posts tagged with "Alligators"


By Daniel Dunaief

Daniel Dunaief

The drive to the Louisiana swamps took over half an hour and was a world away from the incredible jazz, po’ boys and other sites, sounds and tastes of New Orleans.

Once we left the highway, the road curled so dramatically that 15-mile-per-hour speed limit signs seemed unnecessary.

Homes along the way provided a snapshot into the sobering reality of the lives of people who live along the path. The roof of a dilapidated front porch looked like a crushed soda can, blocking the entrance to a house. Across from another home, a white hearse with a rusted roof was parked feet from the intracoastal canal. In a steady drizzle, the driver’s side window remained open.

Once we parked at the Louisiana Tour company’s parking lot, we waited on a small dock, watching a tug boat push an enormous ship about 50 feet from us through floating plants.

Our tour guide and driver Reggie Domangue provided a compelling commentary.

Passing a cemetery along the water’s edge, Reggie described how flood waters pushed a friend’s grandmother above ground twice, forcing his friend to bury his grandmother three times.

Downstream from the cemetery, a fishing boat called Perfect Coup rested on its side, its decaying carcass a testament to the destructive force of an earlier hurricane. 

Reggie didn’t let several missing teeth slow him down. Sharing a narrative that mirrored the winding path through the water, he offered a few verbal gems. When talking about edible parts of the alligator, he suggested, “You fry it, we’ll eat it.”

Warning passengers about the dangers in the water, Reggie cautioned some clothing was more problematic than others. “You go swimmin’ out here, you don’t want to wear no white.” Moving slowly along the canal, he  pointed out the ubiquitous Spanish moss. Years ago, Reggie said, people stuffed it in their pillows until they realized the dried-out moss was flammable.

Heading toward a highlight of the trip, Reggie described the territorial alligators. Noticeable from the ripples atop the water and its v-shaped wake, a 10-foot alligator approached, as Reggie yelled in French, “ici,” for “here.”

Reggie tossed marshmallows to the alligators. He hand-fed one of the alligators, whose mouth closed so rapidly its teeth snapped. As we coasted slowly through the bayou, alligators swam up to the boat. Two raced toward the same marshmallow. After colliding, the only thing left temporarily unscathed was the floating marshmallow.

Reggie said alligators swim on top of the water at 10 miles per hour and below the water at 15. On land, they can move as quickly as 25, although they can’t make quick turns.

Alligators eat small animals and birds. If they catch deer, they can’t eat them because the meat is too tough. Instead, they trap them under a branch, marinating them for two weeks.

The gender of newborn alligators depends on the temperature of the water. Below 86 degrees, the alligators are female. Above that, they’re male.

Female alligators maintain a territory of half a mile, while males have one-mile territories. A male in search of a mate can travel 10 miles a day.

Louisiana has strict poaching rules. Anyone caught poaching an alligator can receive a mandatory 10 years in prison. “People have done less time for murder,” Reggie said.

If you think Reggie sounds like he’s straight out of central casting, you’re not alone. The writers of Disney’s “Princess and the Frog” movie agreed. According to Reggie, Disney executives came on one of his boat rides and modeled the character Raymond, the firefly who’s also missing teeth, after Reggie.

Disney thanked Reggie in the credits. His passengers, including my wife and me, felt the same way after a memorable journey.

Supervisor Ed Romaine, Highway Superintendent Dan Losquadro and Suffolk SPCA Chief Roy Gross pose with a 32-inch female American alligator turned in on Amnesty Day. Photo from Brookhaven Town

Long Islanders turned in three American alligators and eight turtles at a recent animal amnesty event in Brookhaven Town, and all of the reptiles are shipping up to a Massachusetts sanctuary.

Brookhaven’s Holtsville Ecology Center hosted the event on Oct. 10 to allow residents to turn in any protected, endangered or threatened animals that require special New York State Department of Environmental Conservation and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service permits without fear of penalties or questioning. It was the second annual event of its kind for the town, which operated with the help of those two agencies and the Suffolk County Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals.

People with dangerous or illegal animals were able to turn them over to professionals, no questions asked.

Suffolk SPCA Chief Roy Gross called the recent amnesty event a success, saying the three alligators turned in “had the potential of ending up endangering the public.”

According to Brookhaven Town, the average length a fully grown female American alligator is a little more than 8 feet, and a fully grown male can be longer than 11 feet. Of the three alligators turned in, two were males, measuring 27 and 29 inches, and one was a 32-inch female.

“People should think twice before acquiring illegal reptiles or mammals,” Gross said in a statement from the town. “They do not make good pets and you are risking fines and possible jail time.”

At last year’s animal amnesty event, people turned in 25 animals, including a western diamondback rattlesnake, a green anaconda, four boa constrictors, an American alligator and two marmosets.

“These animals were turned in before the people harboring them as pets released them into the wild, creating a potentially dangerous situation in our local communities,” Highway Superintendent Dan Losquadro said in a statement about the alligators and turtles turned over this year. “These animals will now receive proper care without posing a threat.”

Owners of potentially dangerous animals have dumped them in public places in the past, creating a public safety issue. In late August, a 25-pound alligator snapping turtle was discovered in a stream of the Nissequogue River opposite the Smithtown Bull on Route 25. The reptile is not indigenous to Long Island — it is a freshwater animal with enough power to bite off a human toe or finger, and is usually found in places from eastern Texas to the Florida panhandle.

“People need to understand that many exotic animals can be very dangerous if not handled properly or allowed to grow to their adult size,” Supervisor Ed Romaine (R) said in a statement. “They are even more threatening if released into the wild, where they could harm people or other animals.”