Alligators and early blooms: signs of an unusually warm February

NEW ORLEANS, LA (WVUE) - You may see a lot more wildlife in the swamps than you're used to this time of year because of the unusually warm weather.

Cruising down the wetlands right now feels more like spring.

"We have an unseasonably warm February. We broke a few record highs already this February. Many years, February's our coldest month. This year it's a little different. It's very warm, and the alligators are starting to respond to that very early," Captain Bishop Keller said.

He said usually, alligators should still be in brumation, similar to hibernation right now.

"Brumation starts as early as mid-October, and alligators don't wake up typically around here until around march," Keller said.

This year, they're a month early.

"January broke a bunch of record lows. It's been so warm the past week, the gators think that it's spring and they're starting to wake up, so are the snakes. Turtles are the most cold-tolerant of all the reptiles so we're seeing quite a few turtles right now," Keller said.

The vegetation is also ahead of schedule.

"The silver maple trees are starting to put their seeds on for the spring already. Same thing with the black willow, a lot of this swamp vegetation is starting to grow for spring," Keller said.

Pests are rapidly breeding with more vegetation and warm temperatures.

"The gnats have come out. It won't be long, we'll have some mosquitoes. It'll be interesting to see what happens to the termite swarms and the mayfly swarms this year as well," Keller said.

Invasive species like the apple snail can be seen, after surviving the cold winter.

"They breed like crazy, they are some of the world's largest snails. Each one of those egg masses could have as many as 2,000 eggs in it. The major problem? They're in direct competition with crawfish for food," Keller said.

On the bright side, the warm weather means crawfish will hopefully be in abundance soon.

"Some birds up here that are feeding exclusively on crawfish. They're little bitty right now, but it won't be long, they'll be at an edible size," Keller said.

With the early signs of spring, there's a lot to see. Just remember to pack some bug spray.

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