We all know how much Hurricane Ike has affected and continues to affect people and property. I at least had no idea how devastating it had been to the state’s alligator population.
The throaty bellow of adult male alligators, a combination mating call/territorial warning and a signature sound of vibrant coastal wetlands, has been all but absent from marshes along Texas’ upper coast this year.
The gators are gone. Marshes that a year ago held, quite literally, tens of thousands of alligators have, for the past eight months, been all but devoid of the signature wetlands reptile.
Hurricane Ike, which shoved a wall of saltwater as much as 18 feet deep as far as 15 or more miles inland along the upper coast this past September, profoundly impacted the marshes and the hundreds of thousands of alligators that lived there.
The storm hit dead-center of the state’s most extensive alligator habitat and highest alligator populations. The four-county area of Chambers, Galveston, Jefferson and Orange in the southeast corner of Texas held an estimated quarter-million alligators ahead of Ike.
The storm’s lingering effects continued killing gators for months. Just how many were lost to the storm remains in question.
“Right now, it’s still too early to say,” said Port Arthur-based biologist Amos Cooper, who heads Texas Parks and Wildlife Department’s alligator programs. “We know we had some mortality of alligators. But whether they were just displaced and will move back as the habitat recovers is something we won’t know for a while.”
The good news is that the folks who keep an eye on this are optimistic that the gator population will bounce back next year. That’s what happened in Louisiana after Hurricane Katrina, so there’s no reason it can’t happen here. We hope, anyway.