Alligators in North Carolina
Alligators Have Come Back to North Carolina
Alligators have made a comeback in North Carolina after almost being eradicated in the early twentieth century. The beasts have been sighted as far north as the Great Dismal Swamp near the VA/NC border.
Lake Mattamuskeet and the Alligator River have become ideal habitat for North Carolina’s alligators. According to Johnson County’s newspaper, The Herald, a farmer near Lake Mattamuskeet encountered a 14 footer in front of one of the grain bins, apparently finding it a warm spot to rest. The Game Warden was called in to remove the monster and release it back into a wilder location.
If you are driving to the Outer Banks you might be lucky enough to see an alligator enjoying a nice bask in the sun in the canal that runs along highway 64 between Columbia, NC and Mann’s Harbor. In fact, drive with caution in this area. In May 2014 a drive hit and killed an 800-pound gator, doing considerable damage to the vehicle.
North Carolina’s more southern counties naturally have the highest of the State’s alligator population. Perhaps the most famous are the alligators that swim around the battle ship USS North Carolina in Wilmington, NC. A sign warns visitors to the memorial ship, “Caution Alligators are Dangerous.”
Live Alligators in Roanoke Island NC Aquarium - one is a rare albino
Life of an Alligator
Alligators are carnivorous and they are opportunists. They eat whatever is available – fish, other alligators, cats, dogs, small livestock, humans. Meat’s meat as far as the gator knows. They are aggressive and will attack humans so do not approach them. The average lifespan of the alligator is 30-50 years, with the maximum most likely occurring in captivity.
Alligators prefer fresh water streams and canals but will venture into the brackish waters of the coastal estuaries and have even been known to take a swim in the ocean. A member of the reptile family, gators are cold-blooded and cannot tolerate extreme temperatures. But they do not hibernate, but brumate, meaning their metabolism slows, they become sluggish and inactive. They dig into the earth and make dens where they rest during very hot or cold days. The “doorways” to these dens are usually accessed under water.Even on cold days they can be seen sticking their snouts above the water surface to breathe.
The alligator begins courtship in April and breeding goes on until May or early June. The female lays her eggs in a nest she constructed of vegetation. The nest is about two feet high and five feet in diameter. The eggs take about 65 days to hatch. The hatchlings leave the nest in early fall, but the mother keeps a close watch over them until the following spring when breeding season begins again.
Alligators are Protected by Law
Federal law protects alligators as a threatened species. Individual states are allowed to manage and control their alligator populations. Florida, Louisiana, Georgia, South Carolina, and Texas will issue permits to kill nuisance or dangerous alligators. In North Carolina hunting or killing an alligator is illegal and only state wildlife officials can remove problem gators.
In North Carolina, the wildlife commission is asking the public to help in determining just how many alligators there are in the state and their range. They have created a citizen science project, asking the public to report their sightings. People can do this by uploading their photos and giving the location where the photo was taken to https://www.inaturalist.org/projects/nc-alligators.
Up Close with a Baby Gator at the Roanoke Island NC Aquarium
Alligator Hunting Allowed in Hyde County NC in 2018
NC is allowing 20 hunters in Hyde County, NC to hunt alligators between Sept. 1 and Oct. 1, 2018. They 20 will be chosen by electronic lottery from those who apply. There is an $8 application fee. The hunting license costs $250 for NC residents and $500 for non-residents. Methods allowed are catch poles, harpoons, gigs, clubs, bang sticks, and archery equipment. Bag limit is one alligator per permit holder.
© 2008 Donna Campbell Smith