When we are out on “Gator Patrol” we meet a lot of people. We love talking to them and taking the opportunity to teach about alligators. We get a lot of questions like: “How many gators are there in NC?” “How long do they live?” “How do you tell the difference between male and female?” We also get some questions and comments on our website. Since the NCWRC has proposed an alligator hunting season for NC we’ve gotten a lot of questions like: “How can we help?” “What can we do?” We received a question recently about what Alligator Alliance is doing to help prevent the hunting season. We would like to share that question and our response with you.
What measures are being taken by the alliance (Alligator Alliance) to prevent the proposed harvesting of these wonderful creatures? I can't see anything in the NCWRC proposals that give a quantified reason for allowing hunting.
- Steve Johnston Bolivia, NC
Our Response –
Thanks for contacting us!
We are trying to do everything we possibly can to prevent an alligator hunting season here in NC. We attend as many meetings as we can that the NCWRC has, both public and private. The public meetings (like the 6 that are coming up later this month) are where we can all voice our opinions. The private meetings are either by invitation, or meetings we can go and sit and observe, but not speak up.
We too have read the 40 page draft about the proposed management plan. We agree, nothing seems clear cut in the draft. It seems to jump around all over the place. Alligator Alliance is mentioned in the draft a couple of times (pages 24 & 33).
Our main focus has always been to protect our alligator population and to educate the public about them. We are totally self-funded and non-profit. We do presentations by invitation (in neighborhoods or communities). We don't get paid to do it. We do it all because we love alligators.
From what we've heard, there is a lot of pressure from legislation to pass an alligator hunting season. We are the only state that doesn't have one. It is our opinion that we do not have enough alligators to support a hunting season. It seems to us that the NCWRC is having a hard time counting alligators and coming up with an exact amount.
On page 15 of the draft (Surveys and Monitoring) they refer to using "eye shine counts" as a way to count alligators. This isn't effective. Alligator eyes do shine when a light is shined on them in the dark. Other reptiles can also show eye shine...turtles, frogs and snakes. It is our opinion that "eye shine counts" aren't accurate at all.
Another method NCWRC is trying to use for counting our alligator population is through "inaturalist.org" (http://www.inaturalist.org/projects/nc-alligators). Where they ask the public to take photos of alligators in NC and submit them. I personally recognized 2 different photos of an alligator climbing a chain link fence and I immediately knew those photos weren't taken in NC. They were taken in FL and have been floating around on the internet for a number of years. I contacted NCWRC and advised them and they did pull those 2 photos down.
We've heard that a big push for a hunting season is the fact that it will generate income. Guides will get paid for taking people out to find alligators. Taxidermists will be paid to preserve an alligator "trophy." Meat processors will be paid to harvest the meat. The skins can be sold. Money from hunting permits and tags can be made. In our opinion there is much more money to be made from fining the people who illegally feed them and harass them. Each offense can be up to a $500 fine.
That is one of the main things we push for. There is so much evidence of alligators being fed and we've heard time and time again where people were warned about it, but not ticketed. It just keeps happening, especially at one tourist attraction in Brunswick County. NCWRC is aware of these alligators being illegally fed on a daily basis. These alligators are referred to as "nuisance gators" or "food conditioned gators." We don't consider them nuisance gators at all. They have lived in this pond for decades. They didn't leave their habitat (their home) and harass humans for food. The humans came to them and illegally fed them. It's not the gators' fault at all. I don't think these gators should be punished for something humans do. And they continuously get away with it. At the place I'm talking about, we pick up more trash there at that one spot, than we do at all the other habitats combined in Brunswick County! I'm talking about 55 gallon bags of garbage. We were picking up so much trash that we literally ran out of a place to put it. We adopted 2 roads through the NC Adopt-A-Highway Program. Now the DOT provides us with orange trash bags and they also pick up our trash when we call it in. A wonderful way to give back to the county we love so much!
There is only so much we can do. We stand up for these marvels of nature at every opportunity we get. We travel over 225 miles to do presentations for free in Brunswick County. We aren't reimbursed for food, gas or hotels. We spend money to print brochures we can hand out when we're out cleaning habitats and monitoring alligators. We spend money to buy printed wristbands and stickers that we also hand out. We maintain a website. We don't get reimbursed for any of that either. We do have T-Shirts for sale, but make no profit from them. We have a notebook for each year. We write down the location, the date, the time and even the temperature of when we visit an alligator habitat. We also make note of any alligator injuries that we see. Alligators fight over habitats and it's fairly common to see minor injuries that seem to heal quickly on their own. Some of the alligators we see stay in their same habitats year after year. We name all of our alligators. Some we see once and that's it. Our favorites are the ones we see year after year. Beau is my personal favorite. I've spent countless hours with that gator.
But in the end, there is only so much we can do. We need people like you. People we meet in person, or people who e-mail us after picking up one of our brochures (we leave them everywhere we can), or people who check our website out. We need the public to go to the NC Wildlife Resources Commission Alligator Management Plan Draft Survey (https://ncwildlife.az1.qualtrics.com/jfe/form/SV_5u85bJUcM7jGXaZ) and tell them you don't want a hunting season. We need all the help we can get!
We are mentioned twice in the 40 page draft management plan. We're mentioned on page 24 as one of 8 "potentially affected parties" (if the hunting season is passed). We are also mentioned in the last paragraph of page 33, a law that was signed into effect on February 11th of 2016. We are very proud of the fact that Alligator Alliance will forever be listed as one of 8 organizations that helped prevent a hunting season from being passed in 2016.
Alligators truly are my passion. A passion I found I had at the age of 49, when I saw my first alligator in the wild in Southport. I am living proof that you are never too old to find your passion in life. And I also believe that ONE person CAN make a difference. I do not have a degree. I am not a marine biologist. I am not even an alligator expert. I just love these magnificent creatures. I love everything about them. I also believe that they are our last living dinosaurs.
Thank you again for your inquiry. I hope you'll go to the link and stand up with us for our alligators.
Help us help them!
His Response back –
Thank you Lisa. I have completed the survey and expressed my feelings about the useless killing of these gentle creatures. I've kayaked with them many years and can easily say that they never have presented any harm to me and usually do their best to avoid me. If anything I believe the NCWRC report supports leaving them alone and focusing on public education as the primary need. I also believe that there are other reasons for the push for a hunting season which needs to be disclosed, i.e.; “Who in the legislation are forcing the issue?” You can most likely turn to representatives from poor rural districts with residents of the mindset to kill them for profit, people that have been watching too much "Swamp People" on TV. Thanks for all you are doing.
- Steve Johnston