Alligators in New Orleans: Are You Safe to Go in the Water?
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New Orleans is a beautiful and loud city in Louisiana. It’s filled with rich history and has one of the best food and music scenes in the world. Although most people visit New Orleans for the exciting nightlife or to wander the streets of the French Quarter, many animals also call the city home. But are there alligators in New Orleans?
American alligators are large reptiles that can easily surpass 500 pounds. Some are even longer than 15 feet! Alligators are native to the southeast United states from North Carolina to the Rio Grande in Texas. They are very common in Louisiana and Florida. Follow along to find out if there are alligators in New Orleans.
Are there Alligators in New Orleans?
Alligators can be found in New Orleans, but they are more common outside of the city. One of the most common places to see alligators in their natural habitats within the city limits is in City Park. The park has many lagoons and waterways and has the perfect conditions for alligators to lurk under the water. If you want to try and spot an alligator in this park, look closely in the marshier parts. They camouflage well against the dark green.
Sadly, there aren’t many alligators left in New Orleans and most of the ones left within the city limits are small. This is because, while the city used to be overrun with wetlands, it’s developed quickly, forcing these large reptiles to find new homes.
Where do Alligators Live?
Alligators live in freshwater and slow-moving rivers. They prefer warm waters where they can hide or lurk underneath the surface of the water. American alligators live in swamps, marshes, and lakes. These environments have everything they need including food. Alligators hunt for large fish, snakes, turtles, and sometimes other smaller alligators.
Can You Swim in Lakes in New Orleans?
There aren’t many lakes in the city of New Orleans. While there aren’t many alligators left in the city, always proceed with caution before diving into a freshwater lake. Recently, in 2019, a 10-foot alligator was spotted on the south shore of Lake Pontchartrain. An expert, Dr. John Lopez believes the large reptile was flushed out from the Bonnet Carre spillway. More alligators may live in the lake or find their way there since the saline levels have dropped. Although alligator attacks are frightening, they are uncommon.
Still, swimming in Lake Pontchartrain is allowed. This 630-square-mile lake connects to the Gulf of Mexico. During the 1970s and 1980s, the lake was severely polluted and unsafe for swimming. However, now it’s open and safe for swimming after years of intense conservation efforts.
Alligators in Louisiana
There are roughly about 2 million American alligators throughout Louisiana, although most of them don’t live in the city limits of New Orleans. But, just a 30 or 45-minute drive away, you can find swamplands filled with these large gators. If you don’t want to take a walk and see them on your own, you can book an alligator-watching tour. Airboat tours are popular and guides can safely bring you to the home of large alligators.
Most of the 2 million gators in Louisiana can be found in coastal marshes. You can also see these apex predators in the cypress-tupelo swamp and the Atchafalaya Basin swamp. While most non-breeding females live in deeper waters, alligators frequently reach the shore and sunbathe or sleep. It’s not uncommon to see alligators sleeping in groups along the shore.
Do Alligators Attack Humans?
While there aren’t many alligators in New Orleans, this doesn’t mean there isn’t a risk. American alligators stay away from humans as much as possible but will attack if provoked. Alligators don’t actively hunt for humans. While they are large predators, alligators prefer consuming animals smaller than themselves. Alligators aren’t aggressive creatures, in fact, they are docile and spend most of their days sleeping or alone.
Many alligator attacks have nothing to do with humans. For example, some alligators attack dogs along lakes and rivers, and if the owner gets in the way, they can get bit. The majority of alligator attacks also aren’t fatal. In modern history, there has only been one fatal alligator attack in the state. In 2021, after Hurricane Ida, a man was dragged and killed. His wife witnessed the event. The alligator may have been caught and was likely 12 feet long.