Wildlife experts in South Carolina have revealed an upward trend in alligator attacks since the beginning of the millennium. And unfortunately, the problem may worsen as residential areas continue to encroach on the animals’ habitat.
There have been 22 reported alligator attacks in South Carolina since 2000, and 5 have been deadly. Seven of those attacks have happened in just the last two years.
Typically, predatorial animal attacks become a problem when populations grow out of control or human development leads to reduced food ability. But in this case, neither of those issues is a problem. Instead, more people are moving to the Lowcountry, and the animals are becoming desensitized.
“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. “This means there are more people living in closer proximity to alligators. 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.”
Specialists Ask Residents to Help Stop Alligator Attacks
The Lowcountry lies along the South Carolina coast and includes several salt marshes, lakes, and swamps. The state’s DNR estimates that around 100,000 gators live in the region. As people continue to make the area their home, specialists hope they can properly educate residents on how to safely live alongside the predators.
Buck McNeely, the host of the Outdoorsman, sat down with ABC 22 to offer some tips.
“First of all, situational awareness [is important] for every individual no matter where they are or what they’re doing,” he began.
And awareness is most important during the evening and nighttime hours when alligators prefer to hunt. He also stressed that people should never walk their dogs along the banks of waterways. Gators can easily grab them or the owners.
Also, kayakers and canoers should stay away from bodies of water that alligators live in.
“These alligators can actually move pretty fast on land and in the water. They’re extremely fast because their tails propel them, huge muscular tails,” McNeely added.
But most importantly, officials ask that every stop feeding alligators—both intentionally and unintentionally. Because the animals are learning to associate people with food, and that causes them to “lose appropriate fear.”
“Feeding can occur either directly or indirectly by feeding turtles, fish, birds, or other animals, or by cleaning fish and/or disposing of the guts in the water. Feeding alligators is illegal and creates a potentially dangerous situation,” said the DNR.”If alligators are fed or lose their appropriate fear of people, SCDNR has a statewide nuisance alligator removal program that the public can call any time. Alligators that are exhibiting regular nuisance behavior are removed.”