Wildlife in the Bayou – Part 2

Toads

Toads are very similar to frigs, in fact in scientific terms they are one and the same however there are certain differences between the two that have caused them to be noted as two separate species. Toads have a dryer, more leathery skin than most frogs and often tend to stick to dryer habitats as opposed to being based in the water. Toads like the American Toad, the Oak Toad, the Southern Toad and the Gulf Coast Toad can all be found in the Mississippi. Unlike the frogs mentioned before it’s better not to eat these fellows, they belong to the Bufonidae family and as such can produce a toxic chemical named Bufotoxin.

American Alligators

One of the most important creatures in the wetlands is no doubt the American Alligator. These dangerous reptiles can often be found in the swamps off the Mississippi and range in size from 2.6 to 4.6 m in lengths and can weigh up to around 450 kg. These are apex predators that will a wide range of prey; frogs, fish, birds, mammals and other reptiles can all serve as a dinner for this beast. They are also considered a keystone species, this is due to their crucial role as an ecosystem engineer. They create what are known as alligator holes which retain water throughout the year, most importantly throughout the dry season. This provides a habitat for many other species and organisms both above and below the water. Their presence also helps foster a larger growth rate in vegetation as their hunting of smaller mammals helps prevent overgrazing in the area.

American Crocodiles

Though more prominent on the South Coast of Florida and amongst the Caribbean islands, the American Crocodile can sometimes also be found in other bayous across the Deep South too. Due to their salt glands beneath their tongues these crocodiles are able to tolerate saltwater. As such they can commonly be found in brackish water as well as swamps, lagoons and cays. They are often larger than the American Alligators and can grow up to 6.1 m and weigh a whopping 907 kg, despite this they do not feed on larger creatures but instead fish, birds and small mammals. It is less aggressive than most species of crocodile, that being said they have still been known to attack humans so be warned.

Turtles

A huge variety of turtles can be found in the Mississippi and they come in all shapes and sizes, from the smaller map turtles to great big sea turtles (though you aren’t likely to find a sea turtle in the bayou). These animals are reptiles and are usually very easy to spot thanks to a large shell that encases them. A common species found here is the alligator snapping turtle which is especially recognisable for its prehistoric appearance. It has a large head with a long and thick shell with three rows of spikes set into it. They also have a tail just to add that extra touch of dinosaur.