Bobcat peers out of plants
Mammal researcher Dr. Craig Hood of Loyola University photographed three bobcats in the Barataria Preserve. Click on the Investigators in Action link to learn more.

US Fish and Wildlife Service

Animals living in south Louisiana are as distinctive as the habitat they live in. The Barataria Preserve is a great place to spot all kinds of Louisiana critters. Remember that where you are and the time of day is key to what birds and animals you will probably see.

During the day, nine-banded armadillos and eastern grey squirrels can be seen foraging next to the trails. In the marsh, swamp rabbits, minks, and the introduced nutria munch away. While many large mammals are secretive and nocturnal, you may be able to catch a glimpse of a coyote or a white-tailed deer. There are several species of bats known to inhabit the park and feed on its abundant insects.

The Barataria Preserve is literally crawling with reptiles and amphibians. Tree frogs, green anoles, and water snakes are often seen. The species that attracts the most attention is the American alligator. Thirty years of protection and management have allowed alligator populations to thrive and they can often be seen sunning themselves along waterway banks or partially submerged in the water.


Located squarely along the Mississippi Flyway, this is a birder's paradise. Over 200 species of birds use the preserve's waterways and vegetation for foraging, nesting, and resting. Look for many different species of heron, egret, and ibis wading along canal banks or slowly eating their way through the swamps. Songbirds are easily heard and less often seen in the forests, including colorful examples such as the prothonotary warbler and the painted bunting. Look below for the preserve bird checklist. Have an adventure on a Louisiana birding trail. For the latest in bird news for the New Orleans area, check out University of New Orleans ornithologist Dr. Peter Yauckey's Birding Made Easy New Orleans blog. Check out sightings at the Barataria Preserve and Chalmette Battlefield at the eBird link below and add your own observations.

Fish, crabs, and other aquatic organisms are plentiful but can be more difficult to see---try looking straight down into the water from a bridge or deck! The Barataria Preserve lies in the ecologically significant Barataria-Terrebonne National Estuary, fertile waters where rivers and bayous meet the sea. These waters provide important nursery grounds for shell and fin fish including blue crabs, shrimp, speckled trout, and gar fish.

Check out the Investigators in Action page to find out what researchers are doing in the park. For more on the animals that inhabit the Jean Lafitte National Historical Park and Preserve area, follow the links to the right.


Don't Forget About the Atchafalaya!

The Atchafalaya Basin is another great place to catch a glimpse of south Louisiana animals. And it's right next door to our Acadian Cultural Centers in Thibadoux and Lafayette.

Join us for an Atchafalaya Adventure, all from the comfort of your couch!

Take a moment to escape and explore a magical place. Be astonished at the beauty that is south Louisiana. Learn a little about our neighbors. Join Ranger Allyn and Volunteer Rose on a cruise through the amazing waterways of the Atchafalaya Basin and discover some incredible stories that await you!

Visit our keyboard shortcuts docs for details
9 minutes, 33 seconds

Ranger Allyn and Volunteer Rose take you down a winding river path and meet with amazing animals in the Atchafalaya Basin of South Louisiana.


Alligators at the Barataria Preserve

Alligators are visitors from another time, out of place in our modern, urban lives. Yet they exist. Observing an alligator seems like watching a statue. They lay still for hours moving only to breath and blink, and then when spotting prey, suddenly lunge forward at speeds in excess of 30 miles per hour. Not at all normal behavior, unless you are North America’s largest reptile, Alligator mississippiensis.

Of all the animals that can be seen throughout the Barataria Preserve, the species that attracts the most attention is the American alligator. That is hardly surprising, since the alligator sits at the top of the wetland food chain here in the Southeastern United States. In the past, alligators were hunted to the brink of extinction, thirty years of protection and management have allowed the species' numbers to rebound. Nowadays, the alligator is once again common, and you can see them sunning along the bank, or submerged, with only their eyes and nostrils above the water.

Alligators are found all over peninsular Florida and northeastward through the Okefenokee Swamp and up the south Atlantic coast to North Carolina. Westward their range stretches from Florida along the Gulf coast to Louisiana, then expands inland up the Mississippi Valley into Arkansas and into all of the lowlands of eastern Texas.

Alligators can live in lots of different habitats, but they prefer freshwater swamps, marshes and rivers. They are indiscriminate feeders and will eat any animal it can catch from a deer or hog to a beetle, depending on the size of the alligator, the season, and locality.
The American alligator and the American crocodile look very similar. But there are several ways to distinguish the two. Alligators are covered with hard scales, reinforced by little plates of bone. The shape of the snout of the alligator is also broader and more round at the tip.

The teeth are another way to tell the difference. A crocodile's mouth and lower jaws are in line with each other. When a crocodile's mouth is closed, you can see both the upper and lower teeth. Not so of the alligator whose top jaw closes in front of the lower jaw. You cannot see it's bottom teeth when its mouth is closed because of this “overbite.” Unlike other reptiles, their teeth are embedded in sockets.

Alligators spend most of their time in the water. They can spend hours just floating in the water. They can swim at the surface or below. The alligator can sink to the bottom and stay down for a long time, depending on the weather. The eyes, ears, and nose are located on the top of the alligator's head. When it floats or swims at the surface, they are above the water and the alligator can see, hear, and smell. The alligator's sight and hearing are good.

Alligator's feet are partially webbed so they serve as paddles when swimming slowly. To swim fast the alligator uses its long and powerful tail. The alligator tucks its leg against its body and sweeps its tail back and forth. They can swim faster than a person can paddle a canoe and on land, they can move quickly for short distances.
Mating takes place in the spring. The male has a deep booming roar that can be heard as far away as a mile. The female answers with a bellow. Both sexes also have two pairs of scent glands that secrete during mating season. This is how they find each other. The female and male alligator race around in circles above the water. Mating takes place in the water for one or two days, then the male leaves in search of another mate. The female alligator begins building her nest about a month after she has mated. She chooses a dry spot on land, usually under a tree, to build the nest. The tree keeps the nest from direct sun, because the eggs cannot survive hot sun very long. The alligator carries plants in her mouth, and scrapes dirt and leaves with her body and tail. She packs the material down by walking back and forth over it. A finished nest is almost three feet high.

After the nest mound is built, the female scoops out a hole in the middle of the mound
where she lays 29-68 eggs. It takes from late May throughout the month of June to lay that many eggs. After the eggs have been laid, the female covers the eggs with more leaves and plants. As the plant mixture decays, it produces heat in the nest and in this way the eggs are kept warm day and night. The female alligator will guard her nest by sitting next to it. Raccoons, opossums, and wild pigs are fond of alligator eggs. If an animal tries to break into the nest, the alligator will scare off the intruder by opening her mouth and hissing loudly.

The sex is determined by the temperature of the eggs. Above 90 degrees the sex will be
male, below 86 degrees the sex will be female. In between these, the sex is determined by how close they are to either temperature. The natural birth ratio is five females to one male. When the eggs are ready to hatch, about two months later, the baby alligator breaks open the egg with a sharp pick on the end of the nose called an "egg tooth" which falls off shortly after it hatches. As They are hatching, the babies begin to grunt. When the grunts are heard by the mother, she removes the material covering the nest so the babies can get out. She then carries a few at a time in her mouth to the water. Alligators stay with their mother for up to two years.

Alligators measure about 9 inches at birth and they grow 12 inches a year in their first five or six years. They grow very slowly after that. It is unusual to find an alligator more than 12 feet in the wild today. After their first two years then the alligator will live a solitary life, except during mating season.

Alligators often allow you to view them at close range, however, you must respect their power and size. Please do not feed the alligators. Besides being extremely unhealthy for their diet, continued feeding will cause them to associate food with people, removing their natural tendency to avoid humans.

Amphibians and Reptiles at the Barataria Preserve

For a printable version of this list click here

Table 1. Current inventory of amphibians at the Barataria Preserve of Jean Lafitte National Historical Park and Preserve. Data collected from 2001 to 2002 are compared to prior inventories by Smalley (1982), Rossman and Demastes (1989), and observations by National Park Service (NPS) employees and Muth (1991). Except as noted, all scientific and common names follows NPSpecies (version 2.0).

Presence is noted by a “+”

An “*” means this is the first record for this species from the Barataria Preserve.

Common Name

Latin Name

Smalley (1982)

Rossman and Demastes (1989)

NPS observation

This study (2001-2002)

*Smallmouth salamander

Ambystoma texanum







Amphiuma tridactylum





Dwarf salamander

Eurycea quadridigitata





Eastern newt

Notophthalmus viridescens





Southern dusky








*Lesser siren

Siren intermedia





Northern cricket frog

Acris crepitans





*Gulf coast toad

Bufo valliceps





*Greenhouse frog

Eleutherodactylus planirostris






narrowmouth toad







Bird-voiced treefrog

Hyla avivoca





*Green treefrog

Hyla cinerea





Squirrel treefrog

Hyla squirella





Spring peeper

Pseudacris crucifer





Chorus frog

Pseudacris triseriata






Rana catesbeiana





Bronze frog

Rana clamitans





*Pig frog

Rana grylio





Southern leopard frog

Rana sphenocephala





Habitat associations of amphibians at the Barataria Preserve of Jean Lafitte National
Historical Park and Preserve. Presence is noted by a “+” and restricted distribution by a “*.”
Common name Hardwood
Smallmouth salamander * - -
Three-toed amphiuma * + +
Dwarf salamander + *
Eastern newt + + +
Lesser siren - + +
Northern cricket frog + + +
Gulf coast toad + + +
Greenhouse frog * - -
Eastern narrowmouth toad + + +
Bird-voiced treefrog + + -
Green treefrog + + +
Squirrel treefrog + + *
Spring peeper + + -
Bronze frog + + +
Pig frog - - +
Southern leopard frog - + +

Habitat associations of reptiles at the Barataria Preserve of Jean Lafitte National Historical Park and Preserve.
Presence is noted by a “+” and restricted distribution by a “*.”
Common name Hardwood forest Cypress-tupelo swamp Marsh
Spiny softshell turtle - * -
Snapping turtle - * -
Painted turtle - + -
Mud turtle + + -
Alligator snapping turtle - + -
River cooter - + -
Stinkpot - * *
Gulf coast box turtle + - -
Red-eared slider - + *
Green anole + + +
Five-lined skink + + *
Mediterranean gecko * - -
Ground skink + + *
Copperhead + * -
Cottonmouth + + +
Racer + + +
Canebrake rattlesnake * - -
Rat snake + + *
Mud snake - + -
Speckled kingsnake * - -
Louisiana milk snake + + -
Mississippi green watersnake - * +
Yellowbellied water snake + - -
Banded water snake + + +
Diamondback water snake - - *
Rough green snake - - *
Glossy crawfish snake - * -
Brown snake + + *
Western ribbon snake + + +
Common garter snake * - -
American alligator - + +

Birds at the Barataria Preserve

See our list of birds found in the preserve below or explore eBird's list of species sighted.

Table Key





Breeds at the Barataria Preserve


Introduced, established population


Irruptive migrant (migrates when conditions force birds to migrate, like in a harsh winter); common in some years


Species on Review List of the Louisiana Ornithological Society





March - May


June - July


August - November


December - February





Abundant in appropriate habitat


Common; usually seen


Fairly common; expected


Uncommon; infrequently observed


Rare; not seen every year


Erratic; numbers fluctuate


Observed infrequently

Very rare

Very few documented observations


Not reported yet


Fish at the Barataria Preserve

This species list was generated from data collected through NPS observations and a 2003-2005 fish inventory conducted by Dr. David Schultz, Nicholls State University, Thibodaux, Louisiana.

Follow this link for a printable version of the Fish Species List.

Common Name

Scientific Name

Atlantic stingray

Dasyatis sabina

Spotted gar

Lepisosteus oculatus


Amia calva

Gafftopsail catfish

Bagre marinus

Jack crevalle

Caranx hippos

Bull shark

Carcharhinus leucas


Elops saurus

American eel

Anguilla rostrata

Bay anchovy

Anchoa mitchilli

Gulf menhaden

Brevoortia patronus

Gizzard shad

Dorosoma cepedianum

Skipjack herring

Alosa chrysochloris

Threadfin shad

Dorosoma petenense


Cyprinus carpio

Golden shiner

Notemigonus crysoleucas

Lake chubsucker

Erimyzon sucetta

Smallmouth buffalo

Ictiobus bubalus

Yellow bullhead

Ameiurus natalis

Brown bullhead

Ameiurus nebulosus

Blue catfish

Ictalurus furcatus

Channel catfish

Ictalurus punctatus

Flathead catfish

Pylodictis olivaris

Striped mullet

Mugil cephalus

Brook silverside

Labidesthes sicculus

Rough silverside

Membras martinica

Inland silverside

Menidia beryllina

Atlantic needlefish

Strongylura marina

Golden topminnow

Fundulus chrysotus

Gulf killifish

Fundulus grandis

Bayou killifish

Fundulus pulvereus

Western mosquitofish

Gambusia affinis

Least killifish

Heterandria formosa

Sailfin molly

Poecilia latipinna

Sheepshead minnow

Cyprinodon variegatus

Rainwater killifish

Lucania parva

Gulf pipefish

Syngnathus scovelli

Yellow bass

Morone mississippiensis


Centrarchus macropterus

Green sunfish

Lepomis cyanellus

Warmouth sunfish

Lepomis gulosus

Bluegill sunfish

Lepomis macrochirus

Longear sunfish

Lepomis megalotis

Redear sunfish

Lepomis microlophus

Spotted sunfish

Lepomis miniatus

Bantam sunfish

Lepomis symmetricus

Large mouth bass

Micropterus salmoides

Black crappie

Pomoxis nigromaculatus


Archosargus probatocephalus

Freshwater drum

Aplodinotus grunniens

Sand seatrout

Cynoscion arenarius

Spotted seatrout

Cynoscion nebulosus

Atlantic croaker

Micropogonias undulatus

Black drum

Pogonias cromis

Red drum

Sciaenops ocellatus


Leiostomus xanthurus

Banded pigmy sunfish

Elassoma zonatum

Fat sleeper

Dormitator maculatus

Darter goby

Gobionellus boleosoma

Highfin goby

Gobionellus oceanicus

Freshwater goby

Gobionellus shufeldti

Naked goby

Gobiosoma bosc

Bay whiff

Citharichthys spilopterus

Southern flounder

Paralichthys lethostigma


Trinectes maculatus


Mammals at the Barataria Preserve

Click here for a printable version of this list.

Note: Extirpation (also known as 'local extinction') describes the situation in which a species or population no longer exists within a certain geographical location.

Mammals of Barataria

Virginia Opossum

Common in all wooded areas.

Southeastern Myotis Bat

Preserve is within range.

Eastern Pipistrelle Bat

Preserve is within range.

Red Bat

Preserve is within range.

Seminole Bat

Confirmed in Preserve.

Northern Yellow Bat

Preserve is within range.

Evening Bat

Preserve is within range.

Rafinesque’s Big-eared Bat

Preserve is within range.

Brazilian Free-tailed Bat

Preserve is within range.

Nine-banded Armadillo

Abundant on higher ground. Often abroad
during daylight, especially in cold weather.

Swamp Rabbit

Very common except in densest forest.

Gray Squirrel

Most commonly encountered mammal in the Preserve.

Southern Flying Squirrel

Probably common, but completely nocturnal.

Marsh Rice Rat

Common in marsh and swamp.

Fulvous Harvest Mouse

Preserve is within range.

White-footed Mouse

Common in wooded areas.

Cotton Mouse

Preserve is within range.

Hispid Cotton Rat

Preserve is within range.

Eastern Wood Rat (Pack Rat)

Uncommon in hardwoods.

Common Muskrat

Uncommon to occasionally common in marsh where three-square sedge grows.

House Mouse

Introduced. Common on higher ground,
especially around buildings.


Introduced. Common in swamp, abundant in
marsh areas.

American Beaver

Extirpated from the delta, but not making a
comeback in the Preserve.

Atlantic Bottle-nosed Dolphin

A rare visitor to Lake Salvador & Bayou
Barataria after storms.

Red Wolf



Coyote-like wild canids recently invaded the
Preserve. It is probable that these are actually
Coyote/Red wolf hybrids.

Gray Fox

A few recent unconfirmed sightings.

American Black Bear


Northern Raccoon

Abundant, utilizing all habitats

North American Mink

Common in wetland areas.

Nearctic River Otter

Fairly common in wetland areas, around
permanent water.




A few recent unconfirmed sightings.

White-tailed Deer

Common throughout the Preserve.



Wild Boar

Introduced, occasional.


Snakes at the Barataria Preserve

“If you don't bother the snake, the snake won't bother you;” is an old saying, but is quite true. Taking some simple precautions in the Preserve will minimize problems and enable you to safely enjoy the Preserve's trails. Wear proper footwear, remain on marked trails, and above all, look before you sit, step or reach.

All snakes are protected. It is unlawful to handle or molest snakes in the Preserve. Snakes should not be captured: they are relatively delicate and internal injuries can result from improper handling. Besides, most bites occur during capture and handling.

Twenty-two species of snakes have been seen in the Preserve. Of these, only two species are venomous. Most of the snakes you see along the trails will be one of the twenty species of harmless, non-venomous snakes. Of these, four species of water snakes, the Ribbon Snake and the Black-Masked Racer are by far the most commonly encountered snakes in the Park.

Follow this link for a printable version of our snake list.

Black-Masked Racer
Coluber constrictor lantrunculus

A long, glossy snake with a uniformly black to gray body up to 75 inches in length; belly bluish gray, black stripe behind the eye. young individuals have a series of dark mid-body blotches on a gray body. Found in bottomland hardwoods and cypress swamps. They are largely confined to areas of high ground.

Texas Rat Snake

Elaphe obsoleta linsheimeri

A very long snake (up to 101 inches) characterized by dark blotches on a gray-brown or yellowish brown background. Belly mottled or checkered. Most often they are found in briar patches, wooded areas, and around buildings. When cornered rat snakes often pull their body in a tight coil and rapidly vibrate their tails. They have been known to cause undue concern to humans viewing their performance.

Mud Snake

Farancia abacura reinwardti

A very long (up to 81 inches) glossy black snake; belly bright red, the color extending onto the lower sides of the body as irregular bars. The Mud Snake is one the of thoroughly aquatic snakes in the area, rarely seen out of water. During spring flooding, Mud Snakes may be commonly encountered on trails or sitting on branches at the water's surface. Adults feed almost exclusively on the Amphiuma and sirens, large elllike salamanders.

Speckled Kingsnake

Lampropeltis getulus holbrooki

A long shiny, black snake (up to 82 inches) with a pattern of small, light-colored spots, some spots fuse to form narrow crossbands, a characteristic of all juveniles. Belly usually light with black markings. King snakes occur in most types of habitat, although they are most abundant in moist areas. Kingsnakes are one of the only snakes that kill and eat poison snakes.

Broad-banded Water Snake

Nerodia fusciata

A moderately long, (up to 62 inches) heavy-bodied snake with broad dark bands on a brown or tan body. Belly light with large squarish dark blotches. It occurs in all aquatic situations, except salt marsh. They feed mainly on fish.

Ribbon Snake

Thamnophis proximus orarius

A moderately long, slender, olive brown to black snake (up to 48 inches) with a gold vertebral stripe and a yellowish lateral stripe. Semiaquatic and remaining close to water sources. Very similar to Eastern Garter Snake but are distinguished by the position of the light lateral stripe.

Western Green Water Snake

Nerodia cyclopion

A moderately long (up to 50 inches), heavy-bodied olive brown snake with a distinct pattern of narrow dark crossbands, the ones on the back alternating with those on the sides; belly dark brown marked with light spots or crescents. One of the most aquatic of the Water Snakes, is seldom, if ever, found away from the immediate vicinity of water. It prefers still or very slow moving water.

Louisiana Milksnake

Lampropeltis triangulum

A moderately short to medium-sized (up to 52 inches) snake with a series of black-bordered red bands or rings on a yellow or white background; belly patterned same, or the rings may be incomplete. Characterized by a predominately black snout, and usually two anterior temporal on either side of the head. Primarily inhabitants of bottomland hardwood forest, where during winter and early spring, they are often, found some distance above the ground beneath the bark of dead trees or in the heart of rotten trees.

Gkistrodon piscivorus leucostoma

This is the most frequently encountered venomous snake in the preserve. Young cottonmouths are brown to reddish brown with a pattern of crossbands along the back, and grow up to 74 inches in length. The tip of the tail is sulfur-yellow. With age, the yellow disappears, and darkening obscures the bands. Adults show almost no color or pattern. In a few individuals, the dark patch extending from the eye to the angle of the jaw, partially outlined by white stripes, is striking. Cottonmouths are found with the abundant water snakes, and are often difficult to tell apart. Concentrate on head shape - not only is the head of a Cottonmouth spade-shaped, it is also quite flat on top, so flat as to form a pronounced brow-line. When frightened, Cottonmouths maneuver into a tight coil, or simply pull back into a striking position, throw it's head back, and open it's mouth, revealing it’s fangs and cottony-white mouth. Give a snake in this posture a wide berth!

Agkistrodon contortrix contortrix

Copperheads are the drier ground counterpart to the Cottonmouth A moderately long (up to 53 inches), heavy bodied, tan or copper-colored head. This color extends throughout the body, interrupted by a pattern of broad reddish crossbands. The color pattern provides excellent camouflage in the species preferred habitat, the leaf-covered forest floor. Young Copperheads share the sulfur-yellow tail tip of the Cottonmouth. Copperheads are secretive and retiring. Largely nocturnal, they are fairly common along trails on the natural levee, but even in daylight are often overlooked as they remain still when approached.

Last updated: December 23, 2021

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