SWANSBORO | The Wildlife Resources Commission is seeking input from the public as it develops a plan for the management of the American alligator in North Carolina.
A public forum will be held Wednesday, Nov. 2, from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. in the multi-purpose room at the Swansboro Recreation Center, 830 Main Street Ext., Swansboro. The meeting is one of three being held along the coast to receive comments on how best to manage and maintain a stable population of alligators.
“We’ll discuss how to manage them in urban areas and where there are interactions with people and the plan may also set out how hunting could occur and in what situations hunting would be appropriate and in what situations it would not,” said WRC Wildlife Diversity Program Coordinator Allen Boynton.
Boynton said that the state agency made a proposal last year to establish an alligator hunting season but after public input was received the Wildlife Resources Commission decided instead to develop at alligator management plan.
Boynton said the state does not currently have a formal management plan for alligators and the public “listening sessions” are a beginning of the process.
The plan will include evaluation of all available biological information about alligators in North Carolina; identification of gaps where more research is needed on alligator populations, changes in habitat and public opinion about alligator conservation; recommendations on geographical management zones; and recommendation for metrics to establish the number of permits that could be issued for hunting opportunities where “sustainable and consistent with local alligator population, habitat and social conditions.”
Boynton noted that the plan will not establish a hunting season. If deemed appropriate the rules for alligator harvesting would go through a separate process.
He also noted that due to the slow reproductive rate of the alligator that any hunting allowed in North Carolina would be limited. North Carolina is the only state within the range of the species that does not all alligator hunting.
“If we have a hunting season, it would be regulated,” he said.
Boynton said the American alligator is the species found in North Carolina and is most commonly found in the southeastern part of the state.
“They are a coastal plains species and are more numerous around Wilmington and the southern counties than around Manteo and the northern counties. That is mainly due to the water temperatures,” Boynton said.
The Onslow County area sees its share of alligator sightings as the alligators wander out of their habitat into developed areas.
In June there were back-to-back reports: a small three-foot alligator was relocated after it was spotted near the entrance at City Hall in Jacksonville and a large alligator ended up heading back to the woods after wandering onto N.C. 210 near the McDonald’s in Sneads Ferry.
“There is no doubt the human population has increased quite a bit in coastal counties so there are areas of development in former wildlife habitat,” Boynton said.
That means more people are living in the same areas that alligators are present.
However, Boynton said, the alligator population has also increased.
“Development has brought people into areas with alligators but we also believe alligator numbers have been increasing since around the 1960s and they are in a larger area,” Boynton said.
However, Boynton said, alligators don’t reproduce until they reach 15 years of age or so they population doesn’t grow quickly.
Boynton said the American alligator was listed federally as an endangered species in 1967 and later removed from that status due to the recovery of the species. It remains a threatened species within its range primarily due to its similar appearance to the crocodile, which is considered a more threatened species.
The public comments received will be considered as the WRC staff develops a draft management plan, which is expected to be complete by spring. There will be a public review period after the draft is complete.
For those who can’t attend the meeting, written comments can be submitted to Boynton by email at firstname.lastname@example.org. More information about alligators can be viewed at the agency website at ncwildlife.org/conserving.