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Top 5 animals of the swamp and their celebrity doppelgangers

Christopher Walken, Yolandi Visser, Rafael Nadal posing for a photo

My top 5 swamp animals & their celebrity look-a-likes.

                       by: Jeffrey Chitek


  1.  Nutria Rat.  Even though they are not native to Louisiana and have become a very threatening environmental nuisance to our fragile coastal ecosystem over the years,  there is something lovable about a giant, wet rodent.  There are many stories behind how these South American water rats got to Louisiana.  My favorite, a true story of a failed farming effort, involves the son of Tobasco sauce founder Edmund Mcllhenny.  On a trip to Venezuela, John Mcllhenny stumbled across a pelt of Nutria and found it stunning.  Believing it would be a high selling item in the American exotic fur market, he purchased thousands of live to Nutria to be shipped back to Louisiana where he would breed, farm and sell their reddish pelts for millions of dollars.  Long story short… nobody wanted “swamp rat” fur, as it soon gained reputation…and just years into his failed farming operation, a hurricane hit Johns property and released all the Nutria into their new foreign home of the wild.  We now have over 2 million across the state.  Thanks John!  ..and Tobasco is and overrated hot sauce!

Nutria rats have big orange front teeth and do not play tennis

September 8, 2019 – Rafael Nadal reacts to beating Daniil Medvedev in the men’s singles final at the 2019 US Open. (Photo by Darren Carroll/USTA)









2. Red Ear Slider.  This lovely turtle variety is the most common in North America.  They are always lounging around, sunning themselves on logs around every corner to greet us on our kayaks.  Turtles are amazing critters.  Sometimes they get trapped under the ice of a frozen lake or pond for weeks at a time…and they survive by BREATHING THROUGH THEIR BUTTS… Yes, turtles have adapted to cold environments to the extent of developing the capacity to breath recycled air from their bodies using butt bubbles.  Simply incredible.  Sadly, sometimes the process can make their little turtle bodies septic and can lead to death….Also, they make “PRETTY DAMN GOOD SOUP!”  ..Thats how Samuel Jackson would say it.


3. Barred Owl.  There is nothing like viewing the mystical barred owl amongst the spanish moss peppered landscape of a Louisiana swamp.  Owls are otherworldly…and because of their distinguished regalias appearance, have long been associated with virtuous wisdom and intelligence… I don’t buy it birds!  You know the barred owl is in the area before you see it because of its distinctive vocal call “WHO COOKS FOR YOOOOUU!?”  They thrive in the wooded swamplands of Louisiana due to the abundance of small snakes, frogs and even wade out in shallow water to feast on crawfish, yummy!  Speaking of yummy…these owls always remind me of Yolandi from the group Die Antwoord.


4.  American Alligator.  These monstrous reptiles have inhabited the planet for over 200 million years.  Their stomach acid has a pH of 2 and can dissolve entire carcasses, bones n’ all in just days.  They are truly remarkable animals but in my opinion, because of their demonization from fictional stories, movies and television, are mostly misunderstood.  Yes, they are vicious apex predators…but everyone needs to eat.  If they were allowed into any restaurant, or were brought home cooked meals every day, I’m sure they would prefer it to the hard work of stalking, killing and chewing up prey night after night.  For the most part, they just want to be left alone on a sunny log…which I can relate to.  During the winter months, they slow down quite a bit.. they literally slow down..  A field research team in Alabama measure the heart rate of a full grown female on a 35 degree night in February, discovering that the big girls heart was only beating an average of 8 beats a minute over a 5 hour period.  Alligators are a natural marvel and should be wondered as the last true to form dinosaurs on the planet, rather than feared… like Christopher Walken


5. Feral Pigs.  Wild pigs have been around as long as Western expansion.  They were initially brought over in the 1500’s by early Spanish settlers of what is now South Carolina as livestock.  One or two or a couple thousand escaped into the wild and now they plague the terrain of more than 15 states.  They are highly adaptive to their environment and will transform from a typical farm pig to growing 3 inch cutting eye teeth within years of release into the wild.  They go through a “feral” chemical change in their body to adapt to cooler or warmer temperatures and grow out their teeth as tools to root out muddy banks to find food.  Also, they are delicious.  While reclusive in nature and generally hard to sneak up on, there are an estimated 700,000 feral pigs in the state of Louisiana alone… There’s also one in the White House.