Video of guide feeding gators sparks crackdown

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wwltv.com

Posted on June 12, 2014 at 10:22 PM

Updated Saturday, Jun 14 at 10:04 AM

Tania Dall / Eyewitness News
Email: tdall@wwltv.com | Twitter: @taniadall

NEW ORLEANS -- A hair-raising video capturing a Jean Lafitte swamp tour guide swimming with and feeding alligators isn't just catching the attention of social media viewers.

The Jefferson Parish Sheriff's Office is also taking notice, saying it will crack down on tour operators blatantly breaking the law.

"That's scary. Oh my God. I'm videotaping it!" Stacy Hicks said in her home video while on the tour with family.

It's the the type of goose-bump worthy video that will make you want to turn your head away. But for a group of tourists in Jean Lafitte, all eyes were on a swamp tour guide and the gators circling him.

From feeding gators chicken and even a marshmallow from his mouth, Lance LaCrosse pulled out all the stops to entertain Hicks, her mom, aunt and a gaggle of onlookers during their mid-May excursion.

"Before we knew it, he'd jumped off the back of the boat. Surprised us all. We were like: Oh my gosh, what is he doing?" Hicks said in a phone interview. She had been visiting Louisiana for a conference from Oregon.

The problem is that the hair-raising theatrics are against the law in Jefferson Parish, where it is illegal to feed alligators.

Since the video surfaced, the sheriff's office says it has contacted all JP swamp tour boat companies including, Airboat Adventures, instructing them to "cease and desist any type of activity involving the feeding of alligators".

A manager at Airboat Adventures tells Eyewitness News the Lafitte company has no comment on the video and that the guide in question [LaCrosse] is on vacation.

"That's all you need, that'll react them. That's all you need. They'll get started," said Captain James Camardelle cupping his hands to call alligators on Bayou Segnette.

Captain Camardelle has been running Westwego-based Cajun Critters Swamp Tours for 24 years now. He's also seen the Youtube video out of Jean Lafitte that has gone viral.

"My question to them guides is: If something happens to them while in the water, what's going to happen to the people on the boat?" said Camardelle.

JPSO also paid Camardelle a visit to remind him about the laws on the books. The veteran captain isn't into swimming with gators and says passengers never step off his pontoon -- no matter how hard they try.

"Once you get on this boat, right. You don't get off until I dock the boat again. Even when I get bachelor parties, those guys want to get off and wrestle alligators. I say you can wrestle alligators when you get off my boat. You're not getting off until then," said Camardelle.

There is no Louisiana law prohibiting the luring and feeding of alligators. However, Jefferson Parish has an ordinance against those activities. Violators face six months in prison or a $500 fine.

JPSO says this case is still under investigation.

 

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