North Carolina almost had its very own American alligator hunting season.
The state includes the most northern portion of the alligator's territory, and they are most common in the southeastern most part of the state, according to Dr. David Cobb, chief of the wildlife management division for the North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission.
“There are some privately held wetlands that are large that have a lot of alligators,” Cobb said. “But there are some both privately held and publicly accessible wetlands that don’t appear to have a lot.”
Ryan Kennemur, a spokesperson for the N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission, said in an email that some alligators are considered nuisance animals when they show up on golf courses, swimming pools, parking lots and in other human habitats.
This led to interest in an alligator hunting season to try and get rid of some of the nuisance alligators.
Richard Edwards, the commissioner for District 2 of the N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission, which includes much of southeastern North Carolina and the coast, said as the human population on the coast has increased, encounters with wildlife have become more common.
“Over the last few years, we’ve heard more and more and more complaints about the alligators: ‘They’re becoming more common,’ ‘They’re getting bigger,’ ‘They’re chasing my dog,’ ‘They ate my dog.’ You name it, we get the complaints,” Edwards said.
Jeff Davis, a park ranger at Carolina Beach State Park, which is 10 miles south of Wilmington, said at the park, alligator encounters can consist of the animal approaching fishermen to try and grab a free meal, or meandering into the park, on the roadsides or into the picnic area.
Davis said no person in his park has ever been hurt by an alligator, but he did say a Chihuahua forgotten in the picnic area was never found. Some people fishing nearby said they saw an alligator hanging around the picnic area.
They do not know for sure, but there is the potential that the alligator ate the dog, he said.
Kennemur said the proposed season would require potential hunters to get permits, with only one alligator allowed to be captured per permit. The number of permits that would have been issued was never determined.
He said the season would have lasted from Sept. 1 to Oct. 1, and hunters would have been allowed to kill alligators with catch poles, harpoons, gigs, baited wooden pegs, bang sticks and archery equipment.
Firearms would only have been allowed to kill the alligators after they were restrained by some other means under the proposal, he said.
Edwards said the season was designed to be targeted and controlled, and to be aimed towards the nuisance alligators.
Before being voted on by the state's wildlife resource commission, the idea for an alligator hunting season was put online for public comment, Cobb said.
The majority of respondents and advocacy groups — which include the Society for the Study of Amphibians and Reptiles, the N.C. Partners in Amphibian and Reptile Conservation, the Carteret County Wildlife Club, the Coastal Plain Conservation Group, the N.C. Wildlife Federation, the N.C. Chapter of the Nature Conservancy, the Alligator Alliance, the Pamlico Albemarle Wildlife Conservationists and the N.C. Herpetological Society — expressed opposition to the hunting season.
Ultimately, the hunting season proposal was rejected by the commission.
Cobb said this is mainly because not as much is known about the alligator population in North Carolina as biologists would like.
“One of the things you have to consider is the impact on the population of removing those animals. Because we are at the northern edge of the alligator’s range, they grow more slowly and they reproduce at an older age,” Cobb said.
Kennemur said instead, the issue will be monitored.
“The commission will establish an Alligator Task Force to develop an alligator management plan, which would include evaluating biological information on alligators, identifying knowledge gaps and additional research," he said.
Davis said he did not see a need for an alligator hunting season.
“As park rangers, we protect everything and certainly I don’t see enough (alligators) to feel like that was something that should have even taken place,” he said.
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