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Gator hunting could return to NC for the first time in decades

They killed a 12-foot, 5-inch, 620-pound alligator. That was the easy part

Joe Houston and his nephew Scott Houston hunted a huge alligator near the South Carolina coast. They had to use a crossbow, harpoons and a gun to finish the hunt, which took an hour and 45 minutes, before they were able to get the alligator in the
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Joe Houston and his nephew Scott Houston hunted a huge alligator near the South Carolina coast. They had to use a crossbow, harpoons and a gun to finish the hunt, which took an hour and 45 minutes, before they were able to get the alligator in the

A 44-year ban on alligator hunting in North Carolina could soon come to an end.

The N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission recently approved a N.C. Alligator Management Plan with goals of alligator conservation, education and research, and also to “provide opportunities for public enjoyment of alligators through hunting and wildlife viewing.”

Adoption of the plan did not establish an alligator hunting season for the state, but it does offer guidance on where limited hunting would likely be allowed and under what conditions. Alligator hunting will join other proposals at nine public hearings in January before a decision is made by the commission.

Alligator hunting was illegal in the United States from the time Congress passed the Endangered Species Act of 1973 until populations rebounded and alligators were removed from the endangered species list, in 1987. Alligator hunting in North Carolina, however, has been outlawed since 1973.

MAP
A graphic showing the approximate range of American alligators in North Carolina. NCWRC

It’s not the first time the idea has been considered in recent years.

Wildlife commissioners in February 2016 rejected a proposed alligator hunting season, instead forming a task force to come up with a management plan and look into options for working with hunters to assist in removing alligators under nuisance situations.

The plan, approved Oct. 5, calls for spending $1.14 million, most of which would pay for research on the alligator population.

The task force proposed two alligator management zones, the main one consisting of “counties where alligator populations are generally considered to be more robust, human-alligator conflicts most commonly occur, and water bodies representing quality alligator habitat are more common and well distributed.” The counties – spanning the central and southern coastal region – are Hyde, Pamlico, Craven, Carteret, Jones, Onslow, Pender, New Hanover, Brunswick and Columbus.

Hunting would not typically be allowed in the secondary zone – all remaining counties, to the north and west – except in the case of a threat to public safety or property.

ZONES
A graphic showing proposed management zones for American alligators in North Carolina. NCWRC

Limited hunting could occur in two conditions in the main zone, according to the plan: to reduce the number of alligators in towns where conflicts with humans are frequently reported, and in areas where research shows alligator populations are growing fast enough to allow for hunting.

John Henry Harrelson, the wildlife management biologist covering the state’s southeastern district, told the Wilmington Star-News the intention is not for hunters to harvest a large number of alligators.

“Alligators are something that are going to be here for the foreseeable future, they’re not going anywhere,” Harrelson told the Star-News. “So this plan is going to give us the opportunity to conduct research and get a better sense of what the population is.”

gator
Brunswick County sheriff's deputies watch as an alligator measuring over 12 feet ambles off N.C. 133 near Belville, N.C. in 1994. Jamie Moncrief AP

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