Alligator Bayou


Yesterday my daughter and I went to Alligator Bayou for a boat tour.

In 1993 Frank Bonifay and Jim Ragland learned that hundreds of acres of bottomland hardwoods in the Spanish Lake Basin adjacent to Bayou Manchac would be cut for lumber. This valuable habitat was saved by these two contractors turned conservationists and community members working in cooperation with local, state and federal government.

Nearly 1,500 acres were acquired, 901 of which are preserved as is in perpetuity through a national non-profit organization, Bluff Swamp Wildlife Refuge & Botanical Gardens. Today this area is home to giant old-growth bald cypress trees, alligators, snakes, turtles, owls, white-tailed deer, frogs, birds and many other species.

Parts of this fragile ecosystem are still threatened unfortunately. For an example see the Baton Rouge Loop story which would have destroyed Alligator Bayou completely. Also, as Jim Ragland mentioned yesterday, there is a toxic dump underway not far from the bayou that is an immediate threat.

The tour was beautiful and we saw lots of birds (Vultures, Ibises, Egrets, Herons, Grebes, and others) and alligators in their natural habitat.

These are some pictures taken by my daughter yesterday(I haven't uploaded my pictures yet):

Reflection on the water:


Cypress Flats, once Ivory Bill territory:
"Recent pollen tests show that Cypress Flats was an ancient bald cypress swamp with 300-foot-tall trees so thick and profuse that no sunlight could filter through their foliage. The trees were thousands of years old....Cypress Flats, now a vast, open lake of giant, hollow trees and fallen logs."


We also got to pet a Bobcat, Nutria, Alligator and Opossum.

Nutria eating licorice:

Opossums kinda scare me, I will admit. I will pretty much hand feed the two old timer raccoons who live in the trees in the backyard with no fear, but opossums tend to send a chill down my spine, for some reason.

Just the other night as I opened up the front door and there on the front doormat was a opossum staring up at me. I screamed and he hissed and snarled and showed his teeth. Frightening. But, this little guy found still alive by one of the owners of Alligator Bayou, in the pouch of a dead mother opossum (who had been hit by a car), was cute enough to make me kinda wish I could take her home with me. She's crossed eye and has some neurological damage, and was just so sweet.


The bobcats (there were two) were only 6 months old and part of their Bobcat Restoration project.

According to this article, A Minnesota man sold a female bobcat kitten to a local family as a pet for their children. By eight weeks of age, the wife took the animal to a vet to be declawed because the cat had become food aggressive. Fortunately, the vet suggested giving the animal to the Ragland's refuge, which already included a male bobcat who could not be returned to the forest after being hit by a car in Iberville Parish.

"When it's young everything is cute and sweet and then it becomes what it is supposed to be," Ragland says. "(Wild animals) are conditioned to hunt, scratch, growl and destroy things. You really don't want one. It would take generations to be bred so you could have it as a pet and, at that point, you basically have a dog or a cat." Whether it's declawing a bobcat or de-scenting a ferret, Ragland says, "If you're changing an animal to live with you, there's something wrong with that picture."

Jim Ragland and one of the bobcats:

That was my favorite by far.


lsaspacey said...

I don't care. Opossums still freak me out. I guess I've just been surprised by one too many in the dark.

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Anonymous said...

I've been there!

I went with my boss, who liked to intimidate the other students by showing them the picture of me holding an alligator! Glad to see it's still going strong.