The S.C. General Assembly recently passed legislation to allow for an alligator hunting season beginning this fall.
The S.C. Department of Natural Resources' (DNR) Alligator Management Program will continue to issue permits for the removal and disposition of alligators that cause problems for property owners, property owners associations, property holding companies, and local governments or their agents.
More than 100,000 alligators live from the Midlands to the coast of South Carolina and the population is not threatened with the regulated removal of a number of alligators. Anyone taking an alligator, regardless of the season or program, must have a South Carolina Hunting License, DNR Alligator Harvest Permit and an Alligator Harvest Tag with them while afield. All alligators taken must be tagged immediately and reported to the DNR. The applicant must be 16 or older at the time they would hunt to be eligible for an Alligator Harvest Permit. Applicants for the new alligator hunting season will be required to apply and pay online through the application available on the DNR's website beginning May 29, 2008. Click on the red "BUY" button found on the upper left corner of the DNR homepage. On the following page select "Apply for an Alligator Permit online". First time users of this system will then have to create a new user account. The user account requires creating a personal user ID and password. Be sure to write down your user ID and password using exact upper and lower case characters you chose. Your access to this site will be controlled by the accurate entry of this information at a future sign-on. The new season will begin on the second Saturday of September and run until the second Saturday of October, which for 2008 is September 13 through October 11. A $10 nonrefundable application fee will be required and a randomized computer drawing will determine the hunters. The coastal plain has been divided into four alligator management units and 250 permits will be issued for each unit (1000 total). Applicants can select the option to be considered for 1, 2, 3, or any of the units, but the permit issued will only allow them to hunt in one unit per season.
If selected, a $100 fee for a permit is required and each hunter will be allowed to harvest one alligator. Unsuccessful applicants will accumulate preference points for future alligator hunt drawings. Only alligators four feet or greater in length may be taken and the hunter must tag the animal immediately with a harvest tag provided by DNR.
This hunting season does not allow the shooting of unsecured alligators, even on private land. The alligators must be secured using approved equipment and brought boat-side or onto land before it can be dispatched.
Hunters are required to report their harvest to the DNR. Others may assist the permitted hunter, but all participants (including permittee) must be licensed South Carolina hunters.
DNR will also conduct a series of optional seminars for those selected for the alligator season that will include vital information to conduct a safe and successful hunt. No alligator hunting is allowed on public lands such as Wildlife Management Areas (WMA), except in navigable waters, State Parks, or Federal properties like National Wildlife Refuges.
DNR will closely monitor these hunts and the harvest and regulations may be modified for future seasons. For detailed information on the public alligator hunting season, go online to DNR.SC.Gov/wildlife/alligator. The Private Lands Permit Program will also see changes this year. This program was initiated in 1995 to allow private property owners with alligator habitat to selectively remove alligators and has included approximately 15-20 properties each year. The 100-acre minimum property size requirement has been eliminated and the use of firearms for taking, swimming or basking alligators is now allowed during daylight hours. Rimfire firearms and shotguns are prohibited in taking unsecured alligators.
The Private Lands Program season runs Sept. 1-Oct. 15 and a $10 nonrefundable application fee is required to participate. There is no cost for the Private Lands Permit and a $10 fee is required for each alligator tag. Hunt participants are required to report their harvest to DNR. The Private Lands Program allows the harvest of alligators four feet or greater in length and each alligator must be tagged. As in years past, DNR will continue to assist property owners and concerned citizens with problem alligators through its Alligator Management Program. If the complaint warrants an alligator's removal, a removal permit will be issued to the property owner and the property owner can remove the nuisance alligator themselves or contact a wildlife control operator to perform this service. However, in an emergency situation, DNR will dispatch a contracted alligator control agent to remove the animal. Emergency situations are unusual and are considered such only when an alligator becomes an imminent safety threat. The nearest DNR regional office should be called in an emergency situation and a contracted alligator control agent will be contacted to remove the alligator. When not an immediate threat to public safety, it is up to the landowner's discretion to determine if the alligator is considered enough of a problem to warrant the removal of the animal. Alligators cannot be relocated. Except in cases involving rare or endangered species, control of problem wildlife and animal damage is the responsibility of the individual property owner.
DNR maintains a list of wildlife control operators who provide wildlife control services, and like most businesses, do charge a fee for this service. The amount charged is negotiable between the customer and the wildlife control operator, and will often depend on the distance traveled, number of trips required, time expended, and/or number of animals removed. The alligator control permit is issued to the landowner and they can remove the alligator themselves, or have someone else such as a friend or neighbor do the work as a no-cost alternative to hiring a wildlife control operator. A list of wildlife control operators who have indicated that they will remove alligators for a fee is included with all alligator permits. If an alligator is causing problems, contact the nearest DNR office. For an after-hours emergency only, call Operation Game Thief at 1-800-922-5431. Call the following numbers if you have a nuisance alligator during normal business hours: * (843) 953-9856 (in Charleston)-Berkeley, Charleston and Dorchester counties; * (843) 546-8119 (in Georgetown)-Darlington, Dillon, Clarendon, Florence, Georgetown, Horry, Kershaw, Lee, Marion, Marlboro, Sumter and Williamsburg counties; * (803) 734-3898 (in Columbia)-Aiken, Allendale, Bamberg, Barnwell, Calhoun, Lexington, Orangeburg, and Richland counties; * (843) 844-8957 (in Green Pond)-Beaufort, Colleton, Hampton and Jasper counties. For more information about DNR and its many mamagement programs, visit www.dnr.sc.gov.