A woman is suing Hilton Head Plantation and a neighboring community called The Rookery after she was seriously injured in an alligator attack last summer.
Elsie Kyle, a resident of The Rookery, was walking her dog near a lagoon behind her house on September 2, 2021, when an “approximately eight [foot]” alligator grabbed her and her pet.
“Ms. Kyle struggled with the alligator. And [she] was eventually dragged into the lagoon, where the alligator held her underwater,” reads the documents.
The victim now has “permanent injuries and disability.”
The lawsuit, which Kyle’s attorney filed in Beaufort County Circuit Court on October 7, claims that the Hilton Head Plantation Property Owners’ Association and The Rookery Community Association allowed “an unreasonably hazardous and unsafe condition” to exist by “failing to take appropriate measures to prevent alligators from attacking the public.”
The incident follows an upward trend in alligator attacks in South Carolina since 2000. The problem comes as masses of people continue to move into the Lowcountry.
Alligator Attacks Are on the Rise in South Carolina
According to wildlife experts, people in the state have reported 22 attacks since the beginning of the millennium. Five were fatal, and seven encounters took place in the last two years. One of the deadly attacks happened in August in Sun City, which is on Hilton Head Island near Kyle’s home.
Experts say the problems are mounting because the animals are becoming desensitized to humans. And they warn that people will need to learn how to safely co-habitat or the situation will grow more dangerous.
“We have experienced significant growth in the human population along the South Carolina coast, an area where alligators have always been present,” a DNR spokesperson said in September.
“This means there are more people living in closer proximity to alligators,” they continued. “There are more opportunities for interactions between people and alligators and opportunities for alligators and people to be desensitized to the presence of the other.”
Peter Kristian, Hilton Head Plantation’s GM, said his team has taken proper steps to warn people of the increased threat. The plantation ensured that the animal was trapped and killed that same day. It also posted warnings at the front gates and regularly works to educate the community.
“We do a very, very extensive education program which starts when the property owner moves in,” he said. “Our monthly publications include at least three to four times a year (information) about alligators. Avery community meeting we have mentions alligators and other critters … folks know they’re here.”