What States Have Alligators – living in South Carolina

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Alligator populations reached their lowest levels in the early ‘s due to several factors. However, management and conservation actions by state and federal governments as required by the Endangered Species Act ESA allowed the alligator population to increase. They were removed from “total protection” status under the ESA in The alligator is now listed as “threatened by similarity of appearance” because of its likeness to other protected crocodilians worldwide.

This provides greater flexibility for South Carolina and other southeastern states to manage alligator populations.

Today, approximately , alligators occur in the state of South Carolina. Alligators are typically found south of the fall line which roughly traverses the state from I in Aiken to Kershaw County, then up U. Highway toward Cheraw in Chesterfield County. There is no evidence that alligator populations reproduce north of the fall line, and it is suspected that many of the alligators found well above the fall line may have been illegally relocated.

However, a small number of individual alligators can naturally show up in these areas. Alligators usually remain in the area where they were hatched for two to three years before establishing their own range. Females generally have small home ranges, while males may occupy a home territory of more than 2 square miles. Severe drought or flood conditions may cause alligators to move considerable distances in search of suitable waters.

They normally are found in marshes, swamps, rivers, farm ponds and lakes in the wild, but also have been found in ditches, neighborhoods, drainage canals, retention ponds, roadways, golf course ponds and sometimes in swimming pools. Nearly any water body in the Lowcountry has the potential to harbor alligators at one time or another.

During the remainder of the year, males prefer open and deep waters while females seek out nesting habitat in secluded areas with shallow water and heavy vegetation. Alligators can live up to 60 years in captivity, but in the wild they rarely live more than 50 years. Male alligators can presumably grow up to 16 feet in length, although footers are rare, whereas female alligators can grow up to 10 feet. After breeding, females lay an average of 35 to 40 eggs that incubate for about 65 days.

Hatchlings are about 8 to 10 inches in length. About 20 percent of the young will survive to maturity. The others fall victim to predators such as raccoons, birds, snakes, otters and other alligators. They grow approximately eight to 10 inches per year for the first few years and will reach sexual maturity at about six to seven feet in length. Large alligators can reach weights of over pounds. During the first few years their diet consists mainly of small prey such as snails, crayfish, frogs, insects and other invertebrates.

They help maintain the population balance of certain prey species and they help shape and modify habitat. During times of severe drought, alligators are known to dig holes “gator holes” to concentrate water. This helps the alligator survive, and provides a water source to many other species of plants and animals in the area.

In , the SCDNR initiated a problem alligator program that allows contracted agent trappers to capture and harvest specific problem alligators greater than four feet in length.

A nuisance alligator is one that exhibits aggressive behavior toward humans or domestic animals, has become habituated to people, shows symptoms of some debilitating illness or injury, or inhabits recreational waters intended primarily for swimming. South Carolina’s alligator hunting season has been designated as a quota hunt where a limited number of hunters are allowed to harvest one alligator 4 feet or greater in length each from a specified hunt unit.

The ACE Basin is favorable. Gators tend to grow big particularly near waterfowl impoundments near now-feral historic rice fields where they find prey, cover and nests.

The levees of waterfowl rice fields on plantation land along the Cooper River in Berkeley County have become notorious for them. Alligators can be spotted year-round. They never really hibernate and will come out of their burrows any time the air warms. But when spring hits they are moving, the males become less likely to back away from an encounter. And mean gators can mean business.

In , a snorkeler lost an arm in Lake Moultrie. In , a golfer lost an arm retrieving his ball from a course pond on Fripp Island. Last year, an year-old woman who wandered from an assisted-living center in West Ashley was mortally injured by an alligator in a pond nearby. She became the first alligator-related death in the state since records have been kept. For this year’s annual public hunt, applications opened May 1 and the filing period goes until June 15 for a chance in a lottery draw.

Permit-winners must hook or snare the animal and pull it to the boat before killing it. Rifles can’t be used. We broke a harpoon and we broke another harpoon. It was just big.

It was really big, and what I remember is it was heavy,” said hunter Mara-Christian. You had to pay attention. Because of the danger, guns aren’t allowed when gator removal-agent Ron Russell of Gator Getter Consultants takes people out to hunt them.

He prefers to make the kill by dragging the head over the boat gunwale and stabbing it. If someone along is too squeamish for that, he’ll hand over a bang stick, essentially a pipe holding a shot-gun-type slug that fires when it’s pressed to the hide.

He recalls the story of one hunter who accidentally shot his own foot, and another who ended up shot in the hand. There likely are a lot more examples of miscues, he said. Alligators are a protected species but more than 1, of them are killed in the state each year by the public, private land owners and nuisance removal hunters licensed by the state.

There’s a historical estimate of about , alligators in South Carolina. But nobody knows yet how many alligators are out there, much less how many can be removed and still sustain the species.

Few who deal with alligators regularly doubt the hunt has made an impact. The animals are the top of the riverlands food chain, and the loss of alpha predators like that has been shown to disrupt entire ecosystems. They also are “sentinel” animals that have been studied at the Medical University of South Carolina because, if their health suffers because of contaminants in the environment, humans’ could too.

Research continues to discover more positives about alligators. In some cases, alligators that were tagged in and recaptured in were exactly the same length they were 35 years before. Some older females were putting out the same number of viable eggs as they did 35 years ago, according to the report. The creatures remain marquee draws for the multi-million dollar ecotourism and hunting industries in the state.

The reputation of the Sea Pines Plantation in Hilton Head as a prime vacation destination was launched with a magazine photo featuring founder Charles Fraser walking on a fairway alongside a large gator.

Hunt supporters say the culls are needed to control the population of dangerous quarter-ton reptiles. Critics say the hunts are little more than slaughter of the recently re-established species, prodded by legislators representing hunting interests. Environmentalists say the large gators targeted in the hunts are the brood stock needed to maintain a healthy population. Still, more alligators are “removed” each year from private lands than during the public hunt.

A multi-year study expected to be finished by the end of the summer is designed to update that , population estimate and give DNR biologists management guidance. In , five years into the annual hunt and halfway through the field work, the study wasn’t finding a lot of gators above the foot mark. Russell has been among the lead critics of the hunts that target the larger, top breeder alligators.

The remaining bigger gators now sink at the approach of a boat and move away underwater rather than resurface in place, he said.

So now, “the medium-sized guys are getting hammered. The population is not going to maintain. It’s going to dwindle dramatically. So far, researchers don’t have enough data to indicate if there is a long-term detrimental effect on the size, growth or genetic fitness of the population when the big ones are removed, said Kent Vliet, a University of Florida biologist who studies the animals. They have the most access to breeding females, control other males in the population, and generally stabilize the social order of the adult alligator population,” he said.

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6 Not-So-Scary Ways to See Alligators in SC – University of Georgia, SREL

 
 · 9. Snakes. Dennis Church/Flickr. Rattlesnakes, water mocassins, and coral and some of the most dangerous things in South Carolina, but even the non-venemous variety can cause .  · The largest South Carolina alligator reported killed in was 13 feet, 5 inches long — exceptionally large by state standards — taken from the Waccamaw River near Murrells . Populations of alligators in South Carolina have done so well, that the DNR instituted a hunting season in There are only two species of alligator, the American alligator occurring in the .

 
 

Does South Carolina have a lot of alligators? – Wise-Answer.Lowcountry gators on the move as spring heats up – Explore Beaufort SC

 
 
In , a golfer lost an arm retrieving his ball from a course pond on Fripp Island. All rights reserved. It’s against the law. The largest South Carolina alligator reported killed in was 13 feet, 5 inches long — exceptionally large by state standards — taken from the Waccamaw River near Murrells Inlet. Alligators become more active and visible when temperatures rise and their metabolism increases.

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