Thursday, 23 August 2018

North Carolina Allows First Alligator Hunt in More Than 40 Years – via Herp Digest



More than 400 applicants vie for 20 permits in lottery

(HD Editor I think the third to last paragraph in the actual article is wrong. Why alligators where delisted to threatened from endangered)


By Maya Sweedler-Wall Street Journal - Aug. 10, 2018 

A handful of hunters will soon be permitted to bag an animal rarely hunted in North Carolina: an American alligator.

The state’s Wildlife Resources Commission will allow alligator hunting in Hyde County beginning Sept. 1, marking the first sanctioned hunt in the state in more than 40 years. So far, demand is high, with more than 400 people applying for 20 permits, said Alicia Davis, a conservation biologist at the commission.

The monthlong controlled hunt is intended to decrease the alligator population and will target three regions in the county where there have been “frequent alligator conflicts,” according to the county.

Assistant County Manager Kris Noble said the area’s alligator problem has gotten so bad in the past five years that residents no longer swim in local ponds. Ms. Noble stopped taking her Labrador retrievers along on fishing trips to the Inner Banks.

Hyde County, in North Carolina’s coastal plain, is the state’s second largest by total area but the second-least populous. With zero municipalities and fewer than 6,000 residents, as of the last national census in 2010, it has fallen to the county to manage the alligator population.

“A lot of municipalities must deal with downtown traffic and parking, but we deal with resource management and animal control,” Ms. Noble said. “It is pretty obvious to anyone that lives and works here that the alligator...interactions are on the rise.”

The state hasn’t undertaken a large-scale study of its alligator population since the 1970s, so it can’t prove more gator-related complaints actually means there are more alligators, Ms. Davis said.

“We’ve been seeing an increase in the number of calls we get from the public. At least some of that is attributed to development and human population growth,” said Ms. Davis, adding that no people have reported injuries from alligators this summer.


Some said the hunt, frequently conducted from a boat, could be challenging. Alligators have found their way into the county’s drainage pumps, an important part of flood 
prevention. They also reside in canals, many of which are as narrow as 6 or 8 feet, said resident Chase Luker, who works at outdoor-adventure company Dare to Hyde.

Mr. Luker, who didn’t apply for a permit, said the company leads hunting trips for waterfowl, turkey and the occasional black bear—but it is not equipped to lead alligator-hunting excursions. He said many county residents also balked at the permit fee. If selected in the lottery, in-state permit holders must pay $250 and out-of-state permit holders, $500.

Hyde County, which lies to the south of Alligator River, is one of only 10 in North Carolina that can, with permission from the Wildlife Resources Commission, reduce its alligator population via hunting. Hyde County was the only county to apply to the commission this year, Ms. Davis said.

The U.S. Department of the Interior has classified the American alligator as a threatened species since 1987 to help protect the similar-looking American crocodile, which is endangered. Fewer than 10 states offer annual hunting seasons, and each closely monitors the number of animals killed and the regions in which the hunts take place.

Permit holders will be selected for the North Carolina hunt via lottery, which closes on Aug. 10, and will be allowed one kill.
SURPRISING SIGHTINGS

Stephen Dinkelacker, a biology professor at Framingham State University, created the Coastal NC Alligator Research program to study and track alligators in the state. In almost two decades, he has found alligators in some unusual places.

The Outer Banks
Kitty Hawk, a town in the Outer Banks located about 3 miles off the mainland, made headlines when residents reported an alligator there in May.

The Coastal NC Alligator Research team happened to be nearby, so they managed to tag the 9½-foot specimen and release it. According to news reports, it was the first record of an alligator on the island side of the Outer Banks.

“The idea that saltwater is a barrier or impediment isn’t realistic. Alligators can swim,” Mr. Dinkelacker said.

Dare County Bombing Range
The Dare County Bombing Range serves as a practice facility for U.S. Navy and Air Force flight crews. But the noisy airplanes didn’t seem to deter an alligator, Mr. Dinkelacker said. It showed up near a pond in the bombing range just over a week ago.

The alligator, which was tagged, was also seen in 2013 and 2014 in a wildlife refuge, and traveled between 11 and 16 miles to the bombing range, according to the research group.

Stand-alone Pond
In regions alligators frequent, any waterway can host a specimen. But sometimes, Mr. Dinkelacker said, he finds gators in ponds that aren’t connected to a canal or ditch: “You’re like, how did you walk here?”

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