Monday, June 24, 2024

For the first time in 45 years, hunting alligators could become legal in North Carolina

The North Carolina Wildlife Resource Commission approved the Alligator Management Plan today, which recommends the legal hunting of the American alligator for the first time in 45 years. (Port City Daily file photo COURTESY VAUGHN JONES)
The North Carolina Wildlife Resource Commission approved the Alligator Management Plan today, which recommends the legal hunting of the American alligator for the first time in 45 years. (Port City Daily file photo COURTESY VAUGHN JONES)

RALEIGH —The North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission unanimously approved a motion to adopt an Alligator Management Plan Wednesday morning in Raleigh.

After hearing a summation of public input following meetings set for January 2018, the Wildlife Resources Commission (WRC) plans to make a final decision about alligator hunting on Feb. 22, 2018. The plan included a recommendation that the commissioners adopt rule changes regarding the potential legal hunting of the American alligator in select over-populated areas.

By permit only, the plan recommends that hunters in gator prone areas would be limited to harvesting one gator per season, which would run from Sept.1 to Oct. 1 of 2018. Obtaining a permit from the WRC would cost $5.

WRC Wildlife Diversity Program Coordinator Allen Boynton spearheaded the plan and task force responsible for researching the condition of alligators in the state.

“According to the plan that’s adopted, the commission will not be (involved) in any hunts of alligators where we don’t have scientific data that shows that the population is stable or growing,” Boynton said.

Areas of contention include New Hanover, Brunswick and Pender counties, which will be considered to be monitored as Alligator Management Units (AMUs) under the Alligator Management Plan. AMUs will be closely managed by trained wildlife specialists.

They were selected based on where human-alligator conflicts occur most frequently and where gator populations are considered to be “more robust.”

If towns have interest, it will be up to them to contact the WRC to adopt any hunting rules if approved in February according to Boynton.

“People are all over the place about alligators,” he said. “These public hearings will be about the hunting rules.”

Cost and complaints

The WRC incurs annual costs of an estimated $24,928 in alligator-related research, recovery and surveying. Nuisance Alligator Agents cost approximately $300-$750 per visit.

Through opening up a limited hunting season, the WRC expects a reduction in these costs.

Around 120 “nuisance alligator complaints” are addressed annually by the WRC.

It is postulated that hunting will help reduce this number, however, the WRC lacks the specific data to support this theory. This upcoming season could serve as a trial run to monitor the effectiveness of the proposed rule change.

As local populations fluctuate, the WRC frequently makes changes to hunting seasons.

“We change hunting seasons to protect resources,” Boynton said.

The Alligator Management plan, proposed by Boynton, includes several conditions.

Gators would have to be restrained before they are killed, by the use of hand-held ropes or catch poles, snatch hooks, harpoons or gigs, wooden pegs, or archery equipment.

They could be taken at any time of day or night, with or without the use of artificial lights. Baited hooks are not permitted.

The American alligator is most common in coastal, southern North Carolina communities. (Courtesy of the North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission)
The American alligator is most common in coastal, southern North Carolina communities. (Port City Daily photo COURTESY NORTH CAROLINA WILDLIFE RESOURCES COMMISSION)

“The plan is an ambitious plan, which will improve our management of alligators in the state,” Boynton said while addressing the assembly. “We collected a great deal of public input.”

Public forums, open online comments, and a 15-member North Carolina Alligator Task Force all assisted in the passing of this initial plan. The proposal states the intention of this suggested rule change, including the desire to address public safety concerns and to provide recreational hunting opportunities.

The task force currently considers scientific data that demonstrates a limited hunting season for the American alligator would not impact the long-term sustainability of the local population.

From endangered to hunted

This would be a sharp turnaround for the species, which was previously endangered. As populations recovered, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service found the American alligator to make one of the first successful turnarounds for an endangered species.

The last time North Carolina permitted alligator hunting was 1973.  In 2013, killing an alligator, then an endangered species, could result in prison time.

The plan says the American alligator is abundant in North Carolina, closer to the coastline and further south. “Usually shy and secretive in nature,” alligators can become easily socialized if fed, which has been an issue of public safety over the past decade.

For more information regarding this motion, visit http://www.ncwildlife.org/ and for information on how to co-exist with alligators, check out the WRC’s educational flier.


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