LAKE WACCAMAW—At least one town has taken the bait; Lake Waccamaw is the first municipality to declare its intent to allow a limited alligator hunting season within town limits.
If the town’s application is approved by the state, permitted hunters this coming September could legally take an alligator in North Carolina for the first time since 1973.
A town of 1,444 according to 2016 U.S. Census estimates, Lake Waccamaw is the first municipality to contact the N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission about participating in a limited hunting season.
“Our town board unanimously voted for the town to apply for a permit for the town to be considered,” Harry Foley, Lake Waccamaw’s town manager, said.
With a limited hunting season approved by the Wildlife Resources Commission in late February, all that’s left is for Lake Waccamaw to submit its application. At the town’s regular meeting on April 10, Foley said the board did not take long to decide.
“Quite frankly, we didn’t have a whole lot of discussion,” Foley said. “We don’t have a lot of people show up for our town meetings anyhow.”
The Wildlife Resources Commission’s Alligator Management Plan was designed to cater to municipalities’ individual needs. It requires municipalities — towns, cities and villages — to “opt in” to a formalized agreement with the WRC.
Last week, the Commission extended its initial deadline by a month. Municipalities now have until June 1 to apply for the 2018 hunting season, from Sept. 1 to Oct. 1.
“It’s going to be a logistical nightmare for someone to keep up with,” — Harry Foley
“We did extend the deadline because this year with it being new, we knew that a lot of the city, town and village representatives meet maybe once or twice a month,” Alicia Davis, a wildlife biologist for the Wildlife Resources Commission, said. “We wanted to make sure they had enough time to consider.”
Since the Commission passed its new rule allowing municipalities the option to participate during its Feb. 28 meeting, Davis has not received any applications. In fact, at least one municipality —Belville — has preemptively passed a resolution to oppose the commision’s new rule.
“That’s totally up to them if they do that, it’s certainly not something that we’re pushing,” Davis said. “We want towns to know there are options for them.”
Only 10 counties are eligible to opt in: New Hanover, Brunswick, Pender, Onslow, Carteret, Columbus, Craven, Hyde, Jones, and Pamlico. The historic change was introduced to mitigate growing human-alligator interactions and the associated costs in targeted areas.
“[A] targeted take of alligators to reduce numbers in areas with frequent alligator conflicts may be more economically and efficiently accomplished by licensed sportsmen and women,” an educational document the Commission developed for municipalities states. “Individual sportsmen and women are willing to remove alligators while bearing their own costs out-of-pocket because they realize a personal benefit from taking the alligator.”
Foley plans to submit the Lake Waccamaw’s formal application this week.
“The majority of the people, in my opinion if they are not for it, they are at least indifferent,” Foley said. “There is a vocal group that is definitely in favor.”
With the lake in Lake Waccamaw belonging to N.C. State Parks, Foley said the logistics of alligator hunting will be tricky. In addition to the town applying, individual property owners will also be required to ask that their land — public or private — be included in a designated hunting zone.
“From a logistical standpoint, it would be a challenge at best to determine which pieces of property has been identified as a hunting zone versus a non-hunting zone,” Foley said.
Foley is not certain whether regulating hunting zones would be up to Lake Waccamaw or the Wildlife Resources Commission.
“It’s going to be a logistical nightmare for someone to keep up with quite honestly,” he said. “I haven’t seen under whose jurisdiction that’s going to fall.”
Johanna Ferebee can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or @j__ferebee on Twitter