Owner of Jean Lafitte Swamp Tours says feeding gators is ‘not necessary’ as JP council considers lifting ban

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NEW ORLEANS (WGNO) - In Jefferson Parish, there’s been talk of lifting the ban on feeding alligators so that tour guides can lure the critters closer to the boats and make the trips more exciting. But Warren Reuther, Jr., owner of Jean Lafitte Swamp Tours, says “it’s just not a good idea” and he jokes about guides who want to make the gators “sing and dance” for tourists.

Councilman Elton Lagasse reportedly introduced the proposal in order to help some operators who are losing business to those who feed the toothy critters marshmallows and hot dog pieces. Jefferson Parish Council was scheduled to discuss this at a meeting on Wednesday, but results are still forthcoming.

Reuther says his company is the largest in the state, with 60, 60-person boats, and it succeeds without having to feed the alligators. In fact, it operates in a wildlife preserve, so feeding wouldn't be allowed in any case. Guides educate the public on all kinds of wildlife, the Cajun culture and life on the bayou.

One guide says the quiet trip through the canals is the key.

“We have a quiet ride. We don't have to feed them to see them. Some tour companies may have to attract them because of noise differences, but we're quiet so we don't have to do that, says Brent Burmaster, who has been guiding trips at Jean Lafitte Swamp Tours for five years.

He says no feeding keeps the wild animals wild, and after all, the gators have been around nearly as long as dinosaurs.

“They can take care of themselves. They don’t need us to feed them,” says Burmaster.

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