Is this gator country?

Published 1:59 pm Monday, June 2, 2008

Lake Concordia — If the water’s a’rockin, don’t come a’knockin.

Alligators have been spotted more and more around Lake Concordia and Lake St. John in Louisiana lately.

Although the water levels have been much higher than normal, John Leslie, the biologist manager at the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries, said the high water has nothing to do with the number of alligator sightings.

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Simply put, it’s mating season for the gators.

The months of May and June are breeding season for alligators every year.

“When alligators start to think about mating, males are cruising around for territory to set up and defend, while running smaller males out,” Leslie said.

“They’re a lot more mobile this time of the year.”

Leslie said females are cruising around the water too in search of big males with which to mate.

According to Leslie, alligators are increasingly aggressive during breeding season, protecting their territory.

“Once a female makes a nest, she’s going to be very aggressively defending the nest,” Leslie said.

Typically, females will make their nest on a bank 15 to 25 yards away from the water, to help protect her eggs.

If you live on or around Lake Concordia or Lake St. John, Leslie — who said he’s never received a report saying someone was attacked by an alligator — said common sense should prevail when dealing with gators.

“If you’ve got dogs and small children, you don’t want them playing in the lake during the early morning hours and late day hours, as well as at night.”

If you live around the water and learn an alligator has nested on your property, you can call 318-757-4571 to have the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries’ nuisance alligator program handle the situation.

They currently have three alligator trappers work for the department in the six parishes that make up region 4 where Lake Concordia and Lake St. John are.

Karen Clayton, whose house backs up to Lake Concordia, said she’s lived there 26 years and never had an obvious problem with alligators.

She did, however, say that about the same time a “rogue alligator” — as she put it — began hanging around her property, her adult cat and puppy pit bull went missing.

One person who used to have a lake house in his family, but sold it in part because of the possible dangers associated with alligators is Lucien C. “Sam” Gwin III.

Gwin said that 21 years ago, when his son was 2, he got nervous because he spotted a large gator swimming in the same area his son used to play in.

“The alligator swam under the pier in the middle of the day and wasn’t scared one bit,” Gwin said.

The Rev. Rubin Turner, 76, echoed Gwin’s concern.

He said he’d recommend people not swim in Lake Concordia.

“With the water being so high, it’s dangerous for kids,” he said.

Turner, who has been fishing around the levee and Lake Concordia for about 40 years, seemed to be somewhat of a fishing expert for the area.

Without hesitation he could list off where the alligator hot-zones were.

Down on the farm

Most of Louisiana’s estimated 1.5 million alligator population resides in the wild.

However, according to the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries, over 500,000 alligators are raised on farms.

The purpose for raising gators? For their hides and meat.

On the flip side of the alligator spectrum, alligator hunting season is a way to keep the wild alligator’s population down so they don’t overpopulate an area, Leslie said.

“Our job is to protect an area. Hunting seasons are a way of doing that — whether it’s deer, ducks or alligators.”

Leslie also said that alligator hunting is highly regulated so there isn’t a “wholesale of poaching” of the animal like there was 50 years ago.

In order to regulate alligator hunting, there is a public lottery where alligator tags are issued to help remove them from public lakes.