Friday, August 12, 2022

The state is allowing alligator hunting. Now it’s up to municipalities to opt in

A historic rule to hunt alligators was passed last month by the N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission. So far, no one is biting.

A map containing recent alligator sightings in the southeast. These observations were used to inform the Alligator Management Proposal which includes rules that permit limited alligator hunting in North Carolina. (Port City Daily graphic /COURTESY N.C. WILDLIFE RESOURCES COMMISSION)
A map containing recent alligator sightings in the southeast. These observations were used to inform the Alligator Management Proposal which includes rules that permit limited alligator hunting in North Carolina. (Port City Daily graphic /COURTESY N.C. WILDLIFE RESOURCES COMMISSION)

SOUTHEASTERN, N.C.—Now that policy is in place that allows alligator hunting in North Carolina, it doesn’t appear any municipalities are in a hurry to initiate the rule change.

The rule, approved by the North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission in late February, opened a limited hunting season of the American Alligator from Sept. 1 to Oct. 1.

See More: The first alligator hunting season since 1973 opens in September

This is quite the U-turn for alligators; the living dinosaurs were protected under the federal Endangered Species Act for 14 years until they were lifted from the endangered list in 1987.

With a restricted hunting season approved at the state level, the commission is ready to negotiate with select municipalities about implementing a limited take.

But, despite the commission’s preparations, it has not been contacted by any North Carolina municipalities so far.

Who will opt in?

The state’s Alligator Management Plan requires municipalities to “opt in” to the new hunting rule.

Alligator hunting will follow a similar procedure to urban archery season, in which towns request limited hunting in populated areas.

According to Alicia Davis, a wildlife biologist for the Wildlife Resources Commission, the new rule can be customized to fit the needs of each municipality.

“By doing it at the formal request of municipalities, each place is able to decide what is right for them,” Davis said. “We would work very closely with them to decide where the hunts would take place and how many permits would be issued,” she said.

As identified in the plan, a majority of alligator “nuisance” complaints are recorded and addressed in southeastern North Carolina. Alligators are most abundant on the southern coastline, preferring fresh to brackish waters.

Areas designated in the plan as having the option to request a limited hunt include New Hanover, Brunswick, Pender, Onslow, Carteret, Columbus, Craven, Hyde, Jones, and Pamlico counties.

However, it is not the county governments that will approve a hunt. The rule requires “municipalities” – defined by the General Assembly to include towns, cities and villages – to enter into a formal agreement with the WRC.

Michael Cramer, town manager of Carolina Beach, said he has no plans to contact the commission about alligator hunting.

“It is not something I plan to push,” Cramer wrote in an email.

Representatives of Wilmington, Leland, Burgaw, Southport, Burgaw, Surf City, Topsail Island and Wrightsville Beach confirm the rule is not something the municipalities have formally considered.

Municipalities have until May 1 to contact the WRC to be considered for the 2018 alligator hunting season.

“Our target is to be able to accommodate towns that contact us by May 1,” Davis said. “I’m surprised I haven’t heard from a town yet actually.”

Remove or kill?

There are only three Nuisance Alligator Agents in the state permitted to address an alligator causing damage – or perceived damage. Each visit from a Nuisance Alligator Agent costs N.C. WRC $300-500.

With an average of 120 nuisance complaints responded to a year, the WRC aims to reduce costs it pays Nuisance Alligator Agents.

“Hunters in some instances are willing to incur those costs in order to be able to harvest an animal,” Dean said.

“By doing it at the formal request of municipalities, each place is able to decide what is right for them.” Alicia Davis

According to the Alligator Management Plan, as it was initially introduced in October, the cost to submit a permit application is $5. The permit itself is free, but those awarded may need to purchase additional licenses.

With the rule now passed, the commission may anticipate minimal revenue generation.

“Any increase in license sales is not expected to be significant,” the original plan states.

No permits have been purchased – or even issued – at this time. When and if permits are issued, it could put a dent in a local agent’s business that has been wrangling gators for over 45 years.

Jimmy English

At least one Nuisance Alligator Agent is not happy with the new rule. Jimmy English, owner of Wildlife Removal Service, is the only private individual permitted to relocate alligators in the state.

He says the Wildlife Resources Commission’s move to reduce human-alligator interactions by enacting a hunting season does not make sense.

“I don’t know and don’t understand it,” English said. “I see no purpose of it really.”

Human-alligator interactions have been on the rise in recent years because of the increased development of the creature’s natural habitat. The new rule would mitigate the cost to address these interactions, interactions English has handled for decades.

“There’s more development and more encounters with alligators because there are more people,” English said. “Not more alligators.”

English attended public information hearings, has an ongoing relationship with the commission, but still, does not see why alligators should be killed.

Hunters permitted to kill alligators cannot use firearms; they could use hand-held ropes, catch poles, hand-held rod or reel snatch hooks, harpoons, gigs, wooden pegs, or archery equipment.

“These things will have to be killed on the spot,” English said. “Right there in the development. Right there in the people’s yard.”


Johanna Ferebee can be reached at johanna@localvoicemedia.com or @j__ferebee on Twitter

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