The Ottumwa Courier

AP National

June 12, 2014

Tourist video captured gator-feeding frolic

LAFITTE, La. (AP) — Gasps can be heard by tourists on a swamp boat tour in south Louisiana as their guide jumps in the water to feed chicken and marshmallows to two alligators. At one point the guide puts a marshmallow in his mouth and lets one of the gators snatch it away.

The scene was captured on video by Stacy Hicks of St. Helens, Oregon, who visited the area in May.

"When he jumped in I was a little scared, more for him than us though," Hicks said. "I am surprised at the attention this video has gotten. I just thought that this was a thing that happens all the time on the tours."

The video has been shared more than 100,000 times on Facebook.

It also has attracted attention of local and state wildlife officials.

There is no state law prohibiting luring and feeding of alligators, but it's against local law in Jefferson Parish, where the Airboat Adventures tour company is based.

An Airboat Adventures spokesman declined to comment.

Bo Boehringer, a spokesman for the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries, said wildlife agents and parish officials are reviewing the video to determine if there was any wrongdoing.

No charges had been filed as of Tuesday.

Legal or not, wildlife officials say the video shows the unidentified guide took a risk.

"There is no taming an alligator," said Aleutia Scott, a supervising ranger at Jean Lafitte National Historical Park and Preserve. The preserve includes the swamps in Jefferson Parish, just outside New Orleans.

Scott said alligators are "eating machines," and a big one has massive force in its jaws. The alligators in the video appear to be about 5 feet long, indicating they are still growing, Scott said. Alligators are roughly a foot in length at birth and at full maturity, females can reach lengths of 8 to 10 feet and males 12 to 14 feet, she said.

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